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.