How to respectfully tackle a difficult situation at the office

When faced with a colleague that has bad odour or wears too much perfume, this can be a tough one, rife with all sorts of possible landmines, if you misstep and are anything less than extremely tactful, it will all explode in your face. Handled badly this situation will leave you with more fires to put out caused by wounded pride, battered self-image and indignation.

Having a person that smells in the office is a very damaging to work relationships especially with the smelly person in question. The smell may not be attributed to poor personal hygiene, the person may be a bit too fond of garlic or a pungent perfume or cologne.
Employees are less likely to want to interact with someone who smells and are more likely to be distracted in a face to face encounter.
It fosters bad feelings in the team and will cause a rift between the fresh/neutral smelling people and the one who is too ripe.
Office gossip will begin to become malicious and jokes will be circulated.
Ultimately the smelly person’s position and authority will be undermined by the situation.
How to tackle the bad smell problem
Subtle hints and the odd ‘surprise’ gift of some personal hygiene products aren’t going to get the job done. You will need to meet this head on.

Before the confrontation
Do some homework and find out as much as you can about the bad smelling employee. Have there been any complaints? Any medical issues? Any Previous action that was taken and what were the results?

Behind closed doors
This is a sensitive issue so make sure that a meeting is properly scheduled to take place in a private location.

Compose yourself
You are going to be spending some time in the company of this odorous person so be mentally prepared. Aim for a compassionate, sensitive and an understanding starting point.

Be neutral
When addressing the issue keep your tone of voice calm and level. Be informative and tactful. Don’t focus solely on the smell, rather show the bigger picture where their odour is affecting their working environment, career prospects and team relationships.

Set a new date
Let them know that they are important to you and you will be following up to see how they are doing.

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