I don’t have to define this one.  We all know it when we smell it.  Sometimes we’ve even had it.  But what do you do with it when it keeps happening in your workplace?

Before confronting someone (and yes, you will have to do this) you need to look at the overall situation.  Why might the person smell this way?  Is this a long term employee that this has just become noticeable with?  Has it been a problem that’s been tolerated, but the warmer weather is making things unbearable?  Is there a pattern (eg: days of the week?  Time of day?  Certain jobs?)  Does this person have regular contact with clients or the public as part of their job?  Are people starting to complain, or make joking remarks about this person’s BO?

You will need to consider any possible equal opportunity issues that may arise.  It is not unknown for some people to have an adverse reaction to a medication in the form of developing an odd body odour.  Some medical conditions may also have a bad smell as a side effect.  Ethnic expectations can affect how a person keeps themselves clean and what they can use on their body.  Diet can change what a person smells like.

However, it usually comes back to personal hygiene, or lack thereof.  How often a person cleans themselves, when and how.  Whether or not they use deodorant and how often they change their clothes, especially key items such as tops.

So, you’ve got to do it.  You’re going to have to talk to this person.  YOU.  So where do you even start?  Start with “it’s come to management’s attention that you seem to have a problem with body odour”.  This hopefully deflects that people have been making complaints, or it’s just your problem.  And you do need to get straight to the point – body odour.  You can then ask, what do they think the problem might come from or is there anything the company should know about?  This is so you can perhaps find out if there are personal or equal opportunity issues.  If not, then you can perhaps offer some generalised, “helpful tips”, such as bathing daily, using deodorant and changing clothes daily.  Either way, you need to spell out company expectations, and that their body odour does need to improve.  Do make diary notes.

The most usual outcome is that you’ll have a very embarrassed employee who then takes better care of themself.  Please do contact me if you need help with this issue.