Working with a smelly co-worker stinks

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in Your Office Coach

Question: “A new woman in our office literally stinks. She wears nice clothes, but doesn’t shower or wash her hair.  She actually looks dirty. Our boss has talked with her twice about this problem. Each time he mentioned it, she cleaned up for a while, then went back to her old habits. Everyone is sick of smelling this disgusting odor every day. We are also worried about losing customers. How can we get this woman to clean up?”   —Holding My Nose

Answer:  This problem belongs to your boss. Having previously offered two chances for improvement, he now needs to give your grubby colleague a formal performance warning. 

To encourage him to do so, you and your co-workers should clearly communicate your concerns.  For example: “We know you have already talked with Barbara about her hygiene problem, but the situation is getting worse.  Her lack of cleanliness not only makes this an unpleasant place to work, but may also drive away customers.”

As the manager of this new employee, your boss should help her understand that if she chooses to neglect her personal hygiene, she may also be choosing to lose her job.

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