Let’s get straight to the crux of some sensitive workplace issues. How do you as a manager address an employee who smells like soap and water are foreign objects?
How do you even begin to address the staff member who comes to work with exposed cleavage and skirts so high, your office would become an x-rated movie set if they so much as sneeze?
What about the employee who appears to have just rolled out of bed, sans comb and brush? Or the worker whose breath smells so bad day after day that staff have taken to automatically holding their breath or avoiding the offending employee altogether?
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As an employer, you have every right to address these issues as uncomfortable as the issues may be. The key is to address these types of fragile workplace situations in a way that is sensitive, respectful, and appropriate.
Step 1: Meet with your employee privately and share your observations.
Step 2: Ask if there are any extenuating circumstances that the employee may need assistance with that is contributing to the problem.
Using the scenario of an employee with the chronic bad breath as an example, their may be medical reasons that are causing the offensive odor. In the case of cleanliness issues, is it possible that an employee may be living from paycheck to paycheck and doesn’t have a place to shower? Avoid asking your employee if they have a medical condition and don’t jump to conclusions in general, but do make resources available to employees to help address the issues. Recommending that employees meet with their medical professional, or providing time off to address an issue may be the best way to go based on what you staff member has revealed to you.
Step 3: Assure your employee that you are not passing judgement, but that it is your responsibility to address any issue that has an impact on the business.
These conversations are not easy, but ignoring hygiene issues can influence how your clients perceive the professionalism of your business as well as impact the workplace dynamics.
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