Medical Q&As

Body odour - discuss with employee?

I need to speak to a staff member about their body odour. How should I approach this?

This is a very delicate issue and I do not claim to have any particular expertise in advising you how to broach the subject with your member of staff. There is no easy way to tell somebody that they have a bad odour from their body. The conversation could be explosive and the person might feel very hurt by your approach. However, body odour can be very objectionable for other workers that work in the immediate vicinity of the affected person. I generally favour a direct approach to solving problems and I suggest that you approach the person in a sensitive way indicating that you do not wish to hurt their feelings in any way. Ideally this conversation should not take place within earshot of other workers in order to preserve the dignity of the person you are speaking to. Although this approach may be difficult for you the person may continue in blissful ignorance and not be aware of the problem if you donít make an approach. Informing the person could save later embarrassment for that person. If you donít feel up to the direct approach you might consider printing off the following article from this site and delivering it anonymously: http://www.irishhealth.com/index.html?level=4&id=108. I realise that the anonymous approach has its own inherent difficulties. On balance I favour the direct approach couched in sensitivity. If the problem is not addressed you may end up with further problems in the workplace because you may find that other workers will not be prepared to work with this person.