How not to embarrass an offensive employee

Here is a question too many of you may have had to ask yourselves as an employer. How do I tell my employee they have offensive body odor?

Employers in today's litigious society are constantly dodging the pitfalls of incorrectly communicating with their staff. Bosses have to avoid circumstances that could be considered employee intimidation, discrimination, inconsistent treatment, sexual harassment and others. In pro-employee states like California, managers and owners are down right scared of speaking up about certain issues. So what should a male boss do when one of his female employees consistently has unpleasant body odor?

Treat it like removing a Band-Aid

  • Address the issue quickly. Prolonging the day of reckoning will only make it more embarrassing and can create resentment. "Why did you wait so long to tell me?!" is rolling around in the back of the offender's head.
  • Have the conversation in private. Don't ever put someone in a situation where the could feel set-up or persecuted. This is not a good time to leverage peer pressure. 
  • Communicate in person. No, letters, memos, or emails. Words in black and white often don't work well when emotions are involved. Besides you wouldn't want to accidentally have that sensitive topic floating around the office.
  • Lead with positivity. Express your satisfaction with some aspect of what they bring to the company (hard work, good attitude, etc.) This will set a positive tone for the discussion.
  • Be brief. This will mostly likely be awkward for both of you. Especially if you are dealing with someone of the opposite sex. Tell them what you have notices and thank them for attending to the matter. "Sally, I understand that your position can be stressful at times and people handle it differently. This is awkward for me to say so I will be brief. I have noticed that you have body odor toward the end of the day. I want to bring this to your attention because we often don't notice these things about ourselves. I am sure you will attend to the matter and I look forward to seeing you tomorrow." SMILE.
  • Have this meeting at the end of the day. If you think they smell bad now, wait until they have to sit at their desk for the next six hours feeling completely mortified. Be kind, allow them to have a graceful exit and start fresh in the morning.
  • This should go without saying, but don't take anyone else's word for it. Make sure you have witnessed the odor you self. Hear say is not a good basis for embarking down this uncomfortable road. It is also important that you notice the odor from a reasonable distance. Remember sexual harassment? Stay away from that landmine.
So this was my thoughtful and hopefully common sense way of dealing with a sensitive workplace dilemma. How have you dealt with this scenario? 


What to do when there is no 2013 W-4

Every time you hire an employee you need a signed W-4 completed by the employee. For 2013 we have a bit of a dilema. The IRS has not made the 2013 W-4 available yet.

So what's an employer to do with with that new employee? Simple, use the 2012 document. Hopefully you have kept a blank copy of the 2012 W-4. It is no longer on the IRS site. Nor are there any clear instructions on what to do in the meantime. Let use common sense and stay calm. The purpose of the form is simple:

"Complete Form W-4 so that your employer can withhold the correct federal income tax from your pay. Consider completing a new Form W-4 each year and when your personal or financial situation changes." -IRS W-4 form instructions

As the employer, you are obligated to withhold taxes based on information taken from the employee's W-4 and keep that document on file in your office. The only time you should need it is if  the IRS or some other authorized government agency comes knocking on your door for an audit.

When the 2013 W-4 is made available by the IRS I will post a link for your convenience. You should then have employees complete the 2013 form. Other than that you will only need updated forms if the employee requests a change to their withholdings. As always, document everything.

What other forms and documents would you like quick links to from


Network like a job seeker for better employees

Employers, especially smaller ones must apply the advice given to job seekers when recruiting to fill a position. The reason we share the tactics listed below with young job seekers in particular is the same reason small businesses need to follow the same advice. Nobody is looking for you by name. President Obama will not have to look for a "job" after his 2nd term, opportunities will stacked a mile high. Legends like Phil Jackson have to tell teams that he will never coach again so he have some peace and quite. If you're not one of the big names in town or your industry you need to network like an unemployed college grad that was just dropped of in a foreign country with no money. Here's how.

  • Attend events where likely candidates may be like college campuses, trade association meetings and shows, the local chamber of commerce, etc.
  • Make friends with hiring managers/owners that have all the people they want and some you might like to have too. I'm not advocating poaching, just figure our where the good hires are coming from.
  • Ask others what they are asking in interviews to filter the best employees.
  • Interview all the time. It will help you hone your interview skills. By doing this you will build a pool of talent you can tap into when the need arises. Also, you may come across a person that is so good you create a position for them until the right one opens up. 
  • Leave an impression on candidates. Send them a thank you note for coming in. When their choice comes down to you and the big dog in your market who knows their stuff doesn't stink that note can tip things in your favor.
  • Develop a reputation. Publish articles and blog posts or leading a group on Linkedin. The more digital bread crumbs you leave the easier it is to build a flock of purposeful job seekers. 
  • Turn your staff into recruiters. If there is an underground job market that job seekers are told to pursue, there has to be a corresponding hidden talent pool. Employ your staff in such a way that they can't help but tell a friend.
We are all selling ourselves each day to potential clients and future employees. What is the most unorthodox way you have found an star employee?


Freedom from paper checks with paperless payroll

Going paperless may be one of the best ideas for your small business payroll. When everyone is on direct deposit why handout paper pay stubs. In addition to the environment, there are some practical performance benefits to take advantage of by ditching paper in your payroll process.

Green up your payroll: Paperless payroll means less paper consumption. Ok, we got the obvious one out of the way.

Increase employee privacy and security: Most identity theft doesn't happen online, it happens on paper. Unsecured paper with personal information is still the easiest way to bring a financial catastrophy to someone's wallet. If employees receive their net pay via direct deposit the corresponding pay stub is often left behind. The worst example shared with me was an employee admitting their glove compartment was overflowing with unopened pay stubs.

Archival: Do your employees, the payroll administrator, or yourself a favor; give your staff access to their stubs online. Employees can retrieve and reprint pay stubs on their own time from the leisure of their couch.

Employee Moral: While watching a dvd of Mad Men I a laughing at one employee who gets another employee's pay check by mistake. He can't resist, opens the check, and is thoroughly disappointed. Part of keeping employees happy and focused on the mission is keeping their individual pay private.

Paying employees accurately and promptly is foundational to maximizing performance. The more tools you can use to instill confidence the more people can focus on delivering the level of service that helps you stand out from the crowd.

Share your ideas on taking your pay stub to the cloud.