I've thought long and hard about how to write this article tactfully. It is a tricky subject, but one that managers should be prepared to deal with. This problem can be particularly relevant in a shop setting where a lot of hard work is being done and a lot of energy is being spent. However, it is hard to talk to someone about their personal hygiene problems. Most people find it embarrassing to discuss such delicate matters. Instead, it is easier to just silently tolerate the problem. Even worse, the offending individual may be talked about, ridiculed or isolated. This can start another set of problems.
Additionally, personal hygiene is a concern when your employees are out on the jobsite. It is unprofessional to send workers out to deal with the public with poor hygiene.
This raises some questions. First, you may ask yourself if this is really your problem. Also, what are the ethics involved in addressing this issue and what personal boundaries need to be respected? Keeping these questions in mind, let's discuss possible ways of dealing with this rather personal subject.
I'm certainly not suggesting after reading this article that you run out into the shop and hand out bars of soap. That would be tactless and probably ineffective. But, if a problem has been identified, it is important to deal with it in a proper manner.
The first step is to think about how you are going to approach the individual. One suggestion would be to put yourself in his or her shoes. How would you want someone to approach you to discuss something as personal as body odor? To start, privacy is essential. Consider having the discussion in a private room or, better still, offsite entirely. Let your employee know that lately their odor seems to be more noticeable. If you let them know you're saying this out of concern and not because you're mad at them, the mood of the conversation will stay positive. How about a few practical suggestions with regard to body odor? Maybe they aren't using deodorant. If it's a shop worker, perhaps they use the same work clothes all week. You could also suggest they freshen up a bit during the day when they make a restroom stop, perhaps washing up and reapplying personal hygiene products.
Who of us hasn't had bad breath at one time or another? Maybe it was from a salad with onions or that great garlic sauce you had for lunch. But for some it's a bigger, more chronic problem. It is unpleasant to talk up close with someone who has persistent bad breath. Again, a few thoughtfully chosen words in private may be helpful in resolving this problem. There are many products that can be purchased inexpensively that can really make a big difference. Perhaps carrying a travel size toothbrush and using it during the day would be helpful. There are also mouthwashes and mints which could be conveniently and discreetly carried to work. Certainly as a manager, part of your role is to set a good example, so if your workers see you routinely brushing after lunch, it may promote a good habit that others will pick up. Additionally, most shops can usually afford to put out some mints for people to take.
Besides odor problems, there are other personal habits that may need to be addressed. Hand washing is really critical.
Health professionals have been telling us for years the dangers of not washing our hands. Many infectious diseases are spread by hand contact. Reminding your employees of this might help keep sick time down at your company. Washing after using the restroom is essential. Many public restrooms have signs that encourage hand washing. Why not put one up in your restroom?
Personal hygiene is also reflected by a person's personal appearance. Unkempt clothing or uncombed hair makes a poor impression on customers. If I had a sloppily dressed workman or salesman come to my house, I might wonder if I made the correct choice using that particular company. You wouldn't want your customers wondering the same thing.