The Employee With Body Odor

Most of us have, at some point, had to stand next to, or work with an individual with a strong and unpleasant body odor. It’s a very awkward situation. As a casual passerby or customer, it’s easy enough to get away from; but as a manager, you can’t just ignore it. You have an obligation to deal with it for the sake of the employee and the rest of the team. How do you approach it without offending or embarrassing the person?

The best approach is to be discreet, direct and gentle. Find a private place to have a conversation. Begin by acknowledging that it’s an embarrassing subject, and let him (her) know that you’re bringing it up because you respect him. For example:

“Sam, there’s something I want to talk to you about. It’s kind of embarrassing, and I don’t really know how to bring it up. I don’t think you notice it, but you have a bit of body odor. It’s not really horrible, but it is noticeable. I’m really sorry to bring it up like this, but, I thought I should tell you before anyone else notices.”

Don’t stay around too long after you’ve broken the news to him. Its a tremendously uncomfortable conversation to have; and that will just add to his embarrassment. And while he might never thank you for your intervention, it just might be one of the most valuable things anyone has ever done for him.

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