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I have a new employee that joined my team, he is smart and very polite, but he smells very bad due to his transpiration or his general body odor. Sometimes when he comes in after having a shower, he wouldn't smell this bad.

But mostly, he doesn't come showered and many of his colleagues told me that they can't collaborate with him or stay near to his place due to this bad smell!

I am really confused how to tell him that he needs to take a daily shower every morning or whatever scenario to mitigate this impact on others and on him as well (as I don't want people to gossip about this or to have a bad attitude from anybody by telling him this improperly).

  • 1
    are you his manager? – Kilisi Nov 21 '19 at 19:21
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    @Kilisi, Yes i am the CIO (Manager of his manger), but hiring decision comes from me – WEB Nov 21 '19 at 19:26
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    Possible duplicate of Dealing with co-workers that do not shower – gnat Nov 21 '19 at 21:37
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    Not a duplicate, in the related question, the answer is to talk to the person's manager, here, the OP is the manager – LP154 Nov 22 '19 at 8:31
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    It's not just the shower you have to worry about. His clothes might need to be washed. His shoes may need to be replaced. Etc. Don't only focus on showers. Also, I agree that his manager should handle it, but ideally, it should be someone of the same gender. It will be less embarrassing if it comes from someone from his own gender. – Stephan Branczyk Nov 22 '19 at 8:49
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This is best done by his manager.

He should be taken aside informally first and given a firm heads up that he smells and needs to do something about it. It's much better than coming from higher up the hierarchy which even informally will come across more as a threat.

As a heavy smoker this has happened to me more than once in my earlier years. It has always been enough for me to realise I need to do something. And much preferable to a formal notice. A 'heads up' is all it should take. If not then you can move to other strategies, but always try that first. The employee will probably appreciate it.

If they have a medical condition, then it gives them an opportunity to explain before things get nasty.

I'm in the tropics, newcomers (myself included back in the day) sometimes don't realise that personal hygiene needs are very different. So that's another potential thing to look at. If possible have a solution to hand. If your building has showers, let him know that. Anything along those lines.

Lastly don't think of it as embarrassing, it's just something he needs to know and may well already know. Not a lot different from telling someone their zipper is down. They'd rather hear it quickly than let it cause them ongoing issues.

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    +1 for the zipper analogy.. ;) – iLuvLogix Nov 22 '19 at 9:33
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    +1, very good answer. The only thing I'd add or clarify is that when communicating this to him, avoid mentioning "several people are complaining". "Your zipper is down" is clear, direct and non-damaging. "Your zipper is down and various colleagues have been mentioning this to me" is much more embarrassing without any added benefit. If the employee doesn't listen and this issue needs to be escalated, that's when it should be mentioned that this is having an impact on other colleagues. – Charmander Nov 22 '19 at 9:37
  • Well telling someone their hygiene is doubtful seems more embarrassing than having them notice they forgot a simple thing after they went to the restroom. As long as they wear underpants at least. I agree though that as embarassing it may be, killing the elephant in the room better happens fast cause there is absolutely zero possibility it becomes less embarassing, and the chances it solves by itself (e.g. the coworker was in a complicated but temporary situation, like forced to be living in their car, but situation gets better) are very thin – Laurent S. Nov 22 '19 at 9:44
  • @Charmander I would absolutely tell him several people have mentioned it. That's what worked with me. It's then a manager giving a friendly heads up rather than a personal observation on the persons hygiene. I used to be a forestry worker, heavy sweat was normal in safety gear that gets washed when you're wearing it in the rain... when I started office work I wasn't offended when told people were complaining, I just realised there was an issue I needed to fix. – Kilisi Nov 22 '19 at 9:52
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If you want to "get involved" and help your colleague, have a private chat with him (where nobody can hear the two of you talking) and provide him a solution for hos problem (please keep reading for such a solution).

If you just want to have the problem fixed, or if the colleague does not want to cooperate, "delegate" the talking to your boss.


Before university, I had a situation for a while, that my sweat had quite an unpleasant smell, in spite of bath / showers and in spite of always wearing clean clothes.

Just walking from home to school (about 20 min) generated enough sweat to turn me into a (don't-)wanna-be-skunk.

I did not know how to handle the things at that time, and the problem went away by itself.

However, now I have a solution. The bad smell does not come from inside the body, but from micro-organisms which live on the surface of the skin, and feed on the said sweat. Getting rid of the "buggers" fixes the problem.

Cheap, safe, easy solution: apply on the problem-area moist baking soda. Rub it on the skin gently. Let it work for about a minute. Rinse. Repeat daily for a few times, until the colony is gone. Repeat occasionally, as needed.

Alternatively, add 1/4 kg (1/2 pound) of baking soda in the bath water. It will work on the entire body. No special rinsing necessary.

The same baking soda will remove odors from shoes. I do it with my winter boots, and there is no stink in the boots, even in spite of (occasional) heavy sweating.

Caution: Baking soda can temporarily stain white dark clothes / socks. The stains will go away by a simple washing, just like any other dust.

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