As a Consultation Specialist, I talk to managers, supervisors, and Human Resources professionals every day about concerns in their workplaces. I never know what the caller on the other end of the phone is going to call about and just when I feel like I’ve heard every scenario in the book, I’ll hear something new. It keeps the job exciting, no doubt!
Sometimes, people call with scenarios that are uncomfortable to talk about. As a manager or supervisor, you’ve probably experienced this and if you haven’t yet, you probably will. So, what am I talking about? Have you ever had employees or customers complain about an employee’s personal hygiene? This could mean someone with bad breath, flatulence, unpleasant body odor, looking un-showered or unkempt in appearance, and so on. If you have experienced this as a manager or supervisor, you know you need to deal with it but, ugh, it’s such a difficult and uncomfortable topic to address. I’m going to help you deal with this…and it’s not going to be as bad as you think!
- Verify for yourself that the problem really exists – on a few different occasions.
- Meet with the employee in a private area. Let the employee know your concerns in a direct, yet sensitive way.
- Be specific. The employee may not be aware of the problem. Here’s an example,
“Mary, it has come to my attention that your body odor has been impacting others around you.” Discuss the need for the employee to address this concern and be clear about your expectations. If you have a company policy on the topic, I suggest reviewing it with the employee and give him/her a copy of it.
- Establish a timeline for resolution.
- Offer your assistance. “Is there anything you need from me to help you address this?” The employee could say that the problem is a result of a medical condition. If that’s the case, be prepared to ask the employee to provide verification from a physician.
- Set up a follow-up a meeting a week or so later to provide feedback, highlight successes or inquire about steps the employee has taken to address the problem.
- Be sure to document the steps you’ve taken to address this.
I hope this has been helpful. Good luck. And you know what? Once you’ve had a conversation like this one, you will feel more prepared for other difficult conversations.
Kelly R. joined Empathia in 2005 as an EAP Counselor, then became a Consultation Specialist in 2008. Kelly consults with employers regarding any and all workplace concerns. Kelly has a bachelor’s in Human Services and a master’s in Educational Psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She is also a Certified Employee Assistance Professional (CEAP).