Your employees’ personal hygiene might be the last thing in your mind right now, given the uncertainty that plagues your business because of the coronavirus pandemic. But once the dust has settled, wouldn’t you want to address this concern, too? It makes sense for employers to worry themselves about the personal hygiene of their workers. After all, you wouldn’t want a simple office gossip to wreak havoc in the collaborative efforts of the team, right?
The problem doesn’t always present itself to managers or supervisors. Of course, you don’t go around sniffing and finding where that foul smell might be coming from. It is distracting, however. Imagine how you and everyone will feel if something smells in the boardroom during a meeting. How would you feel when people are whispering to each other because there’s an odd smell in the air? Not only is it distracting to the meeting, but you’ll somehow sympathize with whoever the person everyone is talking about, too.
Yes, you should worry about your employees’ personal hygiene. It is part of your role as a manager or supervisor to make sure that the office is running like a well-oiled machine. And if personal hygiene is part of that, then fulfill your duties as a manager to take care of your employees’ well-being. Of course, that is easier said than done. You just don’t hand a lemon-scented deodorant to your employees and hope that they get your point. You need to strategize and find a way not to hurt anyone’s feelings.
Be a Leader
Do not take the coward’s way out. Do not trick them into showering or putting on deodorant. Sure, it might look nice to receive a bottle of perfume as a gift from you, but what’s the hidden message there? Do not leave an anonymous note, too, no matter how well-meaning it might be. That will leave the person looking over their shoulder in embarrassment and humiliation. They’ll realize that people are talking behind their back and instead of addressing the concern, they might feel isolated.
Instead, what you should do is to talk to the person in private. Your tone should be understanding. It shouldn’t be malicious. Be firm, clear, and compassionate. Is it a medical problem? Is it cultural? Be very direct about the topic and approach it as professionally as you can. Your employees will respect you more if you are frank.
However, also make sure that none of the other employees will know of or hear the conversation. They will talk more behind the person’s back. And if other staff members came to you and complained about a particular colleague, don’t let the latter know that others have been complaining about their personal hygiene.
Don’t jump the gun on your employees. Make sure that there is a pattern to this poor hygiene, and that it’s not a one-off thing. Investigate on your own. Remember that personal hygiene is always a sensitive issue so only intervene when you observed that poor hygiene has been happening for quite some time.
Investigating it first before you talk to the employee will ensure that employee that you tried to keep the discomfort at bay until such time that it has become too apparent. Knowing this will build trust for the future. It will also persuade the employees to be more open to your suggestions.
Plan the Conversation
If you dive into the conversation without thinking and planning, you might come off as accusatory when it is the last thing you want to happen. Place yourself in your employees’ position. How would you like anyone to talk to you about your hygiene? Proceed with caution. This is and will always be a sensitive matter.
However, make sure that the employees understand that the issue needs resolution. Although you may be tempted to beat around the bush and finish the conversation as soon as possible, don’t forget to reiterate that they need to solve this concern. Do not downplay the issue just because it is uncomfortable for you. You cannot protect your employees’ feelings without sacrificing your own or their colleagues’.
This type of office issue isn’t only uncomfortable for the employee, it is also awkward for you. But as a leader, you need to take the helm of this issue. You’re the only one who can address it without the issue being blown out of proportion, anyway. Proactive managers will identify these problems even before they get out of hand. Make sure your eyes and ears — even though you worry about many other things — are always on the ground.