How to Work With Smelly Employees

A smelly employee can be quite unpleasant.

A smelly employee can be quite unpleasant.

Work can be stressful -- and sometimes it stinks. When the source of the stink is a fellow employee, your performance and that of those around you may suffer. As a manager, you must address all concerns that are brought to you, no matter how smelly the situation. While approaching an employee about body odor can be awkward, it's important to be direct and efficient. No one wants to work in a smelly office. It not unreasonable for you to make sure that certain office hygiene standards are met.

Take your employee aside and speak to him in private. Be direct and gently address the issue, making sure that you remain non-confrontational. Commenting on someone's odor may be embarrassing for both parties, but communicating directly is much more effective and professional than passive-aggressively hinting at the problem. Holding your nose while you walk by, hoping he or she gets the hint, will not get the message across. Speaking directly is the best approach.

Listen to how your coworker responds. An employee might react angrily, but it's important to remain calm and reiterate that you are only approaching this out of respect to him and the office. Be gentle and understanding if he is embarrassed or fumbles for excuses. The employee may not know that his odor has been offensive to others. He may have a medical condition that is causing the problem. Be empathetic when suggesting that bathing daily will solve the issue at hand.

Make the conversation strictly professional. Don't say that the odor offends you personally. Instead, address it as a business concern. Say that poor hygiene affects the work environment, or that it pushes away potential customers and clients.

Keep the conversation private. Addressing the issue privately assures the employee that you can be trusted and that you genuinely care.

Practice positive reinforcement, also in private. A simple thumbs-up or a pat on the back will suffice. Acknowledging improvement may encourage the employee to continue his new hygiene habits if he sees that it produced tangible results.

If your fellow employee reacts negatively or fails to address the smell, speak to a human resources manager.

 

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