This question came in from one of my HR HelpLine clients.
Question: I have a stellar employee with zero performance issues. My question is, how do I tactfully address her body odor? This is a recent thing and has never been a problem for her before? This is definitely not performance related, so I was just looking for some suggestions. She is fantastic and I don’t want to offend her…Help!!
Advice: This is always a problem that must be handled very tactfully. As the manager, it’s reasonable for you to set clear expectations for hygiene at work and to enforce those standards when people are falling short of them. You need to speak with her and this is going to be an awkward conversation. There’s no way around that. This is a business issue.
The best thing you can do is to simply be honest, direct, and compassionate. Meet privately with her. Say something like, “I want to mention something and I hope I don’t offend or embarrass you. You’ve had a noticeable odor lately. It has never been a problem in the past. This is the kind of thing that people often don’t realize about themselves, so I wanted to bring it to your attention and ask you to see what you can do about it.”
Be clear that it’s a problem and ask her to take care of it. If she doesn’t and you continue to notice the problem, then you would need to talk to her again and let her know that she’s expected to come to work showered and that you’re concerned that the problem has continued after your earlier conversation. But in most cases, a one-time conversation is going to take care of the problem and you won’t need to get into consequences or warnings.
This will be a tough task for you, but you can handle. Sensitivity is the key. She is likely to thank you.
Other posts you may want to read:
- HR HelpLine: When You Need Expert Advice
- 4 Common & Expensive Wage and Hour Violations
- Medical Marijuana: Hospitality Issues