HR.BLR.com ("State HR Answers and Tools Online") asked in an online poll: "Have you ever had to confront an employee about body odor?" Of the 633 participants, 74 percent said yes; 26 percent said no. The poll was conducted March 24-31.
"When our subscribers pose questions to us, it’s striking how often they ask for guidance on how to deal with this issue," said HR.BLR.com Managing Web Editor Kevin Flood. "They need to address something that’s disrupting the workplace, but they also want to do it with a minimum of embarrassment – to themselves, and to the employee."
While there is no "rulebook" for confronting an odorous employee, HR.BLR.com offers these tips to employers:
-- You must talk to the employee – not leave an anonymous note or a can of deodorant on his desk. Just hold the conversation privately, discreetly, and with as much sensitivity as possible. (For instance, acknowledge early on that this is an uncomfortable topic.)
-- Realize that diet or a medical condition might be responsible for the problem. You might suggest, therefore, that the employee visit a doctor. You might also bring the company nurse into the conversation, if you have one.
-- Stress that this isn’t merely a personal matter – it’s a workplace disruption that must be dealt with.
-- Don’t be upset if the employee, out of embarrassment, seeks to end the conversation as soon as possible. Just schedule a follow-up meeting in a few days to make sure the problem is being resolved.
Ultimately, making one employee uncomfortable now will help to retain others. For more tips on retention, download "99 Ways to Manage Employees," a free special report from Business and Legal Reports: http://www.blr.com/82008400/PRS10
Old Saybrook, Conn.-based BLR produces plain-English compliance and training resources for HR, compensation, safety, and environmental managers. For more information and a free catalog, call 800-727-5257 or visit www.BLR.com.