How to react when an employee doesn’t pass the sniff test

by on November 16, 2012 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: HR Cafe
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Awkward!

That’s the only word that fits when you have to deal with an employee whose personal hygiene leaves him or her smelling like, well, like something co-workers don’t want to smell.

Should that situation occur with an employee you supervise, here are some techniques for coping:

    • Be direct. Some managers may think it’s kinder – or at least easier – to leave a deodorant stick or a bar of soap on the offender’s desk. Don’t. This kind of anonymous “advice” can be seen as threatening behavior. You have the right, and the duty, to tackle head-on a problem that is affecting the work of other employees.
    • Be aware of medical issues. Sometimes bodily odors may arise from a medical condition. When talking with the employee, don’t raise that possibility – it could lead to trouble over disability laws. But if the employee brings up a medical issue, be ready to discuss a possible accommodation, or refer the problem to your organization’s expert on disability issues.
  • Be aware of cultural differences. Somebody who eats a lot of spicy or strongly flavored food may end up smelling a little bit like that food. If you’re dealing with a person whose native cuisine is the cause of the odor at issue, be careful not to frame the discussion in a way that suggests their national origin is the problem.

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