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Q: We had a new member of staff start with us a few weeks ago and a number of staff have been complaining about his body odour. Our office is open plan, and quite tightly packed, so it’s not a pleasant smell for everyone around – how can we tackle this sensitively, but without making him feel awkward? A: Dealing with someone with this type of problem is one of the most sensitive – and common – questions that we get asked about. Not only can it result in a horrid working environment, but it can also create a negative image for the business, especially if he’s directly involved with clients, visitors and the like. But don’t ignore the issue as the longer you leave it, the harder it will be to confront. We would suggest an informal, confidential one to one chat with him, being as tactful as you can, and try to address the problem head on. We wouldn’t advise you saying that other members of staff have complained – but be sensitive and understanding. We wouldn’t suggest bringing a can of deodorant into the meeting, either! A body odour can have a medical cause rather than be down to poor personal hygiene and if he says it is, suggest he speaks to his GP. However, if his personal hygiene problem doesn’t improve after your chat, and assuming there’s no medical reason for it, it can ultimately become a disciplinary matter.

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