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How to talk to an employee about a hygiene problem


There are times as a business manager when an employee may have a hygiene problem. Not only does this issue need to be dealt with, but it needs to be addressed in a sensitive manner. Here are some things to consider when dealing with this problem.

Be Tactful- No one wants to have soap placed in their locker anonymously. No one wants to receive a note with unkind words. Take a soft approach with the situation, but be direct. You are the manager and you have a reputation to uphold in your office. Perhaps have a meeting with the employee in private. Having other co-workers involved can make the employee feel like they are under attack. A hygiene problem can be embarrassing and lead the conversation to be defensive. Beginning your conversation with "You don't" would not be as well received. Perhaps start off with "I think" or "I feel." This approach will not be so abrasive. Talking to an employee in private is one method. There have even been times where companies end up having a meeting for all the employees as to not attack one person. Let the employees know that hygiene is a part of the overall dress code and give ideas on how to overcome the issues involved.


Assist in Job Performance- Companies have dress codes that recognize personal hygiene as part of their job performance. When customers come face-to-face with the employee, it has an affect on how the company is perceived. This can sway customers from coming back again. When talking to the employee, let them know the value that they bring to work and that it is appreciated. Tell them the qualities that you like about them and their responsibilities at work. However, another important part of their responsibility is hygiene. Discuss a plan of action and maybe how to take care of it. If after several times, they have not corrected the situation, it may be time to have a meeting with the personnel department. Don't make any rash decisions and just fire the employee. Make a level-headed decision and talk to the head of the personnel department.

Be Mindful of Other Factors- Just because the employee may have a strong odor, doesn't mean that they don't bathe. An employee with bad breath may have a medical condition, rather than the lack of careful maintenance. Or someone may have a dog that leaves their scent with the employee. Sometimes the things that people eat can come from their pores and cause an unattractive odor. So, help the employee determine the best manner to suit their hygiene problem.

Be Ready- Be ready for the employee to take the comment personally. Some can shrug it off and not really say anything but, "Ok. Thanks for letting me know." Others can fly off the handle and take real offense to the comment. The employee may begin to yell. But remember to stay calm and don't yell back. Things can get out of hand and you don't want to have any legal issues come up. Maybe speaking to the employee at the end of the work day, or work week can lessen the blow of breaking the news to the employee. Having a hostile work environment can affect the rest of the business day.

Don't Talk to Others About It- Chances are, more than one person is going to know about the smelly or poor hygiene situation. But that doesn't mean it has to be the topic of conversation. Keep the topic and what was discussed in the private meeting to those that need to know, such as the Personnel department. Other co-workers do not need to be on the "in" with what was talked about. It surely doesn't make the person telling the play by play on the meeting very loyal to their employees. It will show lack of respect while a level of high standards should be deserved.

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