It’s starting to get warmer than normal for California this time of year. Heat brings sweat and sweat can sometimes brings with it bad body odor.
What do you do when you receive a complaint that, “Kim isn’t smelling so sweet at work”? Although an embarrassing topic, managers need to treat a complaint of body odor just like any other complaint and take it seriously. Ask the complainant, and then yourself, the following questions:
- Is this an on-going problem?
- Is this issue causing a disruption in the workplace?
- Are employees negatively impacted by this situation?
- Are customers negatively impacted by this situation?
- Has a company policy been violated? (Dress and/or grooming policy)
- Is someone’s health or safety at risk?
If you can answer yes to any one of these questions, then it’s time to take action.
Given the personal nature of the problem, handling a complaint of body odor may require a little more sensitivity than handling an attendance issue. As with any complaint you only have 100% of half the story, so you will need to investigate the situation.
In order to find out why an employee has poor hygiene it’s important to determine whether the problem is something that the employee can control (perhaps by bringing a change of clothes and deodorant to work) or whether it’s a medical condition, special diet or medicine the employee may be taking that is causing the problem.
Sample Steps. An example of how this situation could be handled might look something like this:
- Meet with the employee in a closed door setting to ensure confidentiality.
- Gently bring the matter to the employee’s attention. “Hey Kim, this is a difficult conversation to have, but I wanted to let you know that I’ve noticed (or I’ve received concerns from others about) a recent body odor problem that is disrupting the sales department.”
- Ask the employee if they are aware of the problem and allow them the opportunity to discuss the situation.
- Ask and then allow the employee to assist you in providing possible solutions.
- If at any time the employee makes mention of a medical condition, you will want to talk about reasonable accommodations, determine whether this is a temporary or permanent situation and whether you need to request medical documentation.
Although embarrassing, the problem of body odor can be easily nipped in the bud if it is addressed quickly and properly. Avoiding a body odor problem on the other hand can result in gossiping, disruption in the workplace, and disgruntled employees or customers. Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill by avoiding conflict in the workplace – instead, address issues right away! We’re here to help!
President & CEO for CEA