A business leader called regarding a very awkward situation. The leader had recently received complaints from peers and employees regarding a high performing manager. The manager had a “strong odor” and it was offensive to others. What is the best way to handle this “stinky” situation?

HR Guru Solution

This is one of the most difficult discussions to have with any individual. How do you address a sensitive topic while maintaining the dignity of the employee?

The discussion should occur in private at the end of the workday or shift to provide the employee an opportunity to leave immediately after the discussion. Regardless of the approach, the individual will likely be embarrassed by the conversation and will want to leave the premises to avoid feeling further discomfort.

The conversation should be short, direct and compassionate and you need to take thorough notes for your records.

Communicate that it has been brought to your attention that your body odor is having a negative effect on coworkers. Ask if he/she is aware of this concern? The employee may say no, he/she may say yes they are on new medication and it is having an unusual effect, or that he/she is working out immediately before coming to work and perhaps this is a result of the exercise. Regardless of the response, you need to communicate that you have a responsibility to bring it to their attention and that the issue must be addressed. Ask what you can do to help? If the employee tells you the odor is a result of a medical condition, contact human resources as this is now a HIPPA issue and may be covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act.