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How to Deal with Employees Who Smell!Posted on by Angela Rhodes
Having to deal with an employee with a personal hygiene problem is probably one of the most difficult, embarrassing and sensitive situations that any manager is likely to have to face. It may be a problem of dirty clothing, dirty hair, bad breath, body odour, flatulence or a more deep-rooted medical problem. Whatever the nature of the problem, it should be dealt with as fairly and as quickly as possible as the longer the problem continues unresolved, the more difficult it is likely to be to raise the issue with the employee concerned. The longer the problem is left, the more likely it is that other employees will complain and become hostile towards the employee involved. It’s best to deal with issues of this kind through open and frank two-way communication. Don’t beat around the bush – simple language should be used to explain the problem. If you drop vague hints by making comments about the awful smell, the latest deodorant advert on TV or leaving a tin of air freshener on the employee’s desk it’s unlikely to work and very often the problem person has no idea themselves that they have a problem. It is important however not to openly accuse the employee of poor personal hygiene as it may be their bad breath is the result of a medical problem. Hopefully, the problem employee will benefit from this frank and honest approach to the situation. Talk to the employee concerned in private where the conversation cannot be overheard by anyone else. The employee is likely to be very embarrassed and upset so great sensitivity and understanding needs to be shown by the Manager. Explain the problem to the employee and ask them if they are aware of the issue and what might be the cause. Be careful not to probe too deeply if there is an underlying medical cause as the employee may not want to discuss the state of their health with their Manager. Reassure the employee that the discussion will be totally confidential and that you want to help them. Don’t say that other people have made comments on the problem even if they have as this is likely to cause the employee even more embarrassment. Try to reach agreement to a possible solution to the problem which might be something like the employee agreeing to see their GP or a Company doctor, the employee agreeing to change and wash their clothes and/or hair more frequently or to buy a mouth wash and clean their teeth more frequently. The employee should feel supported but must understand that an improvement is required to avoid further problems. Agree a date in say four weeks’ time to review the situation.
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