I have yet to talk to an audience about discussing the hygiene issue without people clearly relating. Recently I was interviewed by Forbes magazine about how to talk about it. It's a tough, but important topic. Here are some tips for you.
How to Tell Someone They Smell Bad at Work. Power Phrases to Address Poor Personal Hygiene
We’ve all encountered it. Someone whose personal hygiene does not meet our standards. What’s up with them? Are they clueless? Is it passive aggressive behavior in the workplace? Might they have a problem they can’t control? Is it a medical issue? Most of us are not psychologists or docs and we don’t know. We do know that while there is no great way to tell someone they smell bad, some ways are better than others.Many of us avoid handling difficult conversations with employees at work because we don't know how. While there isn't a great way to discuss hygiene, these tips will help.
When considering how to tell someone they smell, let’s start with how you don’t tell them.
In other words, walking up to them in a meeting and saying,
- You stink
- I just found this great new deodorant
- I can’t stand the way you smell
- I know you people don’t bathe as much as we do
…is not acceptable.
So what do you do? Here’s what you do when you need to tell someone they smell bad at work.
What do you say? Here are your PowerPhrases to tell someone they smell bad at work.
If you’re the manager, add:
Listen empathically to their response.
A few more Power Phrases you can use are:
If they become reactive, use empathic Power Phrases. Chances are the employee is embarrassed and is reacting with passive aggressive behavior in defense. What they do with the information is more important than what they say in the moment.
Whether your employee or coworker’s hygiene issue is medical, cultural, due to lack of awareness, or a clear example of passive aggressive behavior in the workplace (it happens), Speak STRONG. PowerPhrases can help you manage the issue. I have letters from readers who tell me someone had the grace to tell them about the issue years ago, and it made all the difference in their lives.