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I am a young manager and have a question. We have a very diverse group of people working in our company from all corners of the world. One of the issues that was raised in the "water cooler" conversations is the fact that some people have their lunch in their cubicles and smell of ethnic food can be distracting to the people in adjacent space. We do have a fully equipped kitchen where majority of the people eat their food, so the question is: is it advisable to explicitly encourage the rest of the team to join them or is it too sensitive of a cultural issue?

bmillard's picture

I think you can just make this a decision as to whether or not the company wants people eating at their cubicles. In our company, due to the astronomical cost of computer equipment, we do not allow our employees to eat at their cubicles. We site the reasons being that food and/or drinks can be spilled and can destroy the equipment. So, that's one approach you might want to consider (not making it about the smell but about the safety of the equipment).
But, that really doesn't answer your question so here are some other things to consider...is the water cooler talk legitimate talk? I know that smells continuously find their way to my office from the break room...as will food smells in any office. So, will people still smell the foods from the break room? If so, then the complaint is not really about the smells...you have another issue which must be dealt with, especially in a diverse environment. Consider who is making the complaint and whether the complaint would be resolved (the smells would be gone) if you were to enforce a company wide policy of not eating at your cubicle.
Bev

Mark's picture

My apologies for my delay.

While I would absolutely encourage a manager to speak to a direct whose personal scent was creating problems for others, I don't think I would allow an issue of the scent of one's food to become official.

How is it that people travel the world and learn about, taste, and try, and grow to love, other countries' foods?

This is only a problem of over-sensitivity. Ask to try their food the next time you smell something you don't like.

"Hey, that smells interesting. Tell me about it!"

Again, I regret my absence.

Mark