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Smelly co-worker

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Question: Another manager at my workplace has a new employee who smells, very strong, of body odor. All the staff working in that area and others among the office have already complained and are now spraying scented sprays.

Her appearance is very professional and she is very good at her job.

How does this manager approach this employee? Is that even legal to approach a worker about their smell? And if you do approach them, how do you make them comfortable about going back to work now that she knows others could smell her? She also feels bad that the other staff are gossiping about her.  -- Anonymous


Do it right away. Just call her in for a private talk and say it simply and right out, with no hedging. Suggest that it's something she's probably not aware of and that it may be a medical problem and you're telling her so she has a chance to check it out. Don't mention that other people are complaining, but say that YOU noticed. If she's upset about what others will think, just tell her you're sure no one will mention it, and re-emphasize that you were sure she wanted to know so she could do something about the problem. Just keep in mind how YOU would want someone to tell you.

I think she definitely should be told, I agree that she may not even be aware that she even has an odor. I agree with Anita it could be an medical problem or it could be something she is consuming that is excreting through her pores. I would also check and review your company dress code policy some of them do include hygiene.

I think she definitely should be told, I agree that she may not even be aware that she even has an odor. I agree with Anita it could be an medical problem or it could be something she is consuming that is excreting through her pores. I would also check and review your company dress code policy some of them do include hygiene.

Over the years I've learned that those who told me things I didn't really want to hear, but who did so out of concern and friendship, ended up being some of the most valuable people in my life. Tell her, privately and caringly. She truly does not know, and needs to because it will continue to affect her life everywhere she goes and in everything she does. Assure her there is help for her. It might be something as simple as changing diet or brands of soap, but certainly could require medical intervention because most odor is connected to the presence of bacteria.

I don't think there really is a way to not offend anyone in this matter. The person that smells is going to most likely get upset and that is unavoidable. They need to be told in a private setting that your office has standards and that being groomed is one of them. As a boss, you need to address it as it is bothering other employees and making them uncomfortable. If you have customers that come in to the office as well, it doesn't make your establishment look very good when you have someone with bad odor.

My niece has had problems with body odor since she started going through puberty. She did see a doctor and was told that she had over active sweat glands and unfortunately, there wasn't a lot that could be done for her. She did try many different things to help the smell. She is now 23 years old and continues to have problems, but not nearly as bad as when she was younger. So please, when approaching the co-worker, the supervisor needs to be very sensitive to the fact she may in fact know, but can't do a whole lot about it.

Also, there are now many immigrants in the U.S. who came from countries with poor hygiene. So take this into consideration if she's from another country.

But in any case, she should be approached and the matter should be discussed in a very tactful and kind way.

This problem is more common that most people would believe. The key word is discretion and compassion, just as everyone has said! There is probably no way to couch the words that they won't hurt but they don't have to destroy. Has anyone spoken to her manager as yet? If this person is known to be NOT discrete, then perhaps they aren't the person to talk to her.

Could it be an ethnic thing? My "ex" worked with a man who smelled horribly, and when he spoke to the man (he was elected by the co-workers) they realized the smell eminated from his diet, not necessarity an easy problem to resolve, but he did.

I personally would adopt an attitude of what I would say to a child who I knew would be hurt beyond anything I could imagine, about what I was about to say, then step forward. "It is a dirty job, but someone has to do it." But do it with kindness!

I have a suggestion here that maybe someone could tell her. Its a very herbal thing and the advice here might seem not "Admin" type, but the effects are excellent and I had to share it.

Where I come from, people give out advice freely and no one takes offence, I am hoping it will be as easy for you too.
Anyway, here it is : A spoonful of fenugreek seeds soaked overnight in about half a cup of water and drunk first thing in the morning for about a month (or continued, as desired) clears the body of any clogged secretions and totally removes body odor. It has several other advantages, but I dont want to go all herbal here and get any flak!!

I agree with most of the comments above. Speak to her gently & privately & assume that she doesn't know about it. It could be a medical problem and it could be something she eats. It might also be a reaction to something in her clothes (some people have problems with polyester & other synthetic fibers). Another possibility, is wearing clothes that are not clean. If you take a shower & put on dirty clothes you will smell bad. The other thing that is not mentioned here is that she is sabotaging her chances for advancement if her coworkers and customers literally have to "hold their noses" around her.

I had to have this conversation with someone in the past (I was elected) and I approached her as a caring friend. I don't think the comment about "office standards including grooming" is the way to go at all because it sounds like a reprimand as opposed to an attempt to help. In my situation, I just sat down with the woman and said that I had noticed that lately she seemed to have a problem with body odor and asked her if she had recently changed deodorants or anything. She was mortified at being told this, but I stressed that I was telling her so that she could take care of the problem, which she did. It's an awkward conversation for both parties, but if you handle it with tact and compassion, you'll both do fine. It may even wind up being a bonding experience for the two of you.

I used to work at a home health care as a staffing coordinator and I received a complaint from a family about one of our companion's having an odor. I questioned them about her work and they loved her but was really not happy about the odor.
I was so scared to talk to her in case I hurt her feelings and she was one of my sweetest, kindest workers but I knew something had to be done for her and the family's sake.
I called her into my office and was very honest with her telling her the good with the bad and everything I told her came from my heart and I explained how hard it was for me to talk with her about this since I was so afraid of hurting her.
She was very grateful and she solved the problem and she and the family were both happy.
It is very hard to have this conversation but if the person knows that you really care about their feelings it seems to work out just fine.

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