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How to Deal With a Smelly Person At Work

How to deal with a smelly person at work

If you have to tell a colleague he/she smells, how do you do it?

If a colleague has a problem with personal hygiene and is therefore a bit smelly, you may be the one who has to tell them.

But how? Here are the steps you need to take.

Step One

Book a room so that you can have a private, one to one conversation. Don't tell him, (I will assume a male example in this article): Don't tell the person what the meeting is about. Just tell him you need to see him about something which is not too important, but it is urgent.

Step Two

When you get to the room sit at the corner of the table and ask him to sit at the adjacent corner, ie so that you are at 45 degrees to each other. You don't want to be sat across the table, because that sets up a confrontational situation.

Step Three

When he arrives, start by thanking him for coming and when he is settled you say something very close to the following script.

"Jon, thank you for coming. I want to tell you something, but before I do, I need to warn you that what I have to say, is of a rather personal nature, and I need you to know that. Okay?"

Pause for only about two seconds and then continue.

Step Four

Jon, as I sit here, and whenever I get this close to you, I can SENSE (don't say smell) a certain distinct odour, (not SMELL)".

"It is not a perfume. It is some kind of body odour."

Then, pause for about two second's to let that sink in.

Then continue in the following way:

Step five

"Would you please do whatever you need to do, in respect of this, to remedy the situation?"

Then stop talking and wait for him to respond.

One of three things will happen.

Step six

He will say,

  1. "Oh no! Yes of course I will", or
  2. "I know that I have this problem and I am fighting it", or
  3. "I know that I have this problem and who are you to tell me what to do. You are not my mother".

If he says, "Oh no! Yes! Of course I will." Then you say "Great!"

If he says, "I know that I have this problem and I am fighting it." Then you say, "You need to see your GP and get some help and advice. Will you please see your GP?"

If he says, "I know that I have this problem and who are you to tell me what to do? You are not my mother." You say, "I know it is ordinarily none of my business. But the fact is that, whenever I get this close to you I can SENSE, (don't say smell), a certain distinct odour, (not SMELL), and therefore, I believe that others must notice it too, and so may our customers, and suppliers. Therefore, it has become legitimate for me to mention it to you.

It is also made it legitimate for me to repeat the request that you do whatever you need to do, in respect of this, to remedy the situation: maybe you need to see your GP and get some help and advice? What do you think you can do to fix this?"

You must press on until you gain some kind of commitment to take some kind of action.

At the conclusion of the interview, give Jon a few minutes to compose himself before he returns to work. He has taken a psychological beating. Cut him some slack.

Make a detailed written record of what you said and what he promised.

Additional notes

Don't do this interview with anyone else present. Make this conversation between just you and him; Not him and the rest of the team.

Don't use the word "smell": Neither as a verb or a noun: "I can smell you." or "You have a funny smell."

Don't make reference to other peoples complaints.

Only if he demands to know if anyone else has complained should you let him know that 50 other people have complained that he stinks!

He does not need to know. If at all possible, he should not know. It could destroy him. So, try to keep it one to one.

For more information about assertiveness training and managing conflict please visit the Corporate Coach Training website

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