To smell or not to smell.. stinky employee

I know it's not the most important question on the market today, but what in the world am I gonna do with the employee that has offensive odor? This is the 2nd complaint I've received. I responded to the 1st complaint with a secret note and Altoids... apparently, he's run out of them, but it seemed to work at the time.. he has rotten teeth in the front, but the other employees are complaining again.. what to do? Any suggestions would be helpful.. Thanks! I'd like to take care of this so as not to offend him..


  • 14 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
  • A professional HR person should not have to resort to 'a secret note and Altoids.' I realize it is a sensitive subject, but it is part of your job. Be kind, be sensitive, but be direct. Lay the cards on the table and tell it like it is (in a private conversation, of course.)

    "Joe, We need to discuss a sensitive subject. Your body odor (or breath) is sometimes offensive to the people working close to you. Perhaps you are not aware that it has become an issue, and I want to be fair to you and let you know so that you have an opportunity to correct the problem, and I do expect you to figure out a way to correct it. Do you have any questions?"

  • Great advice, Lorrie. I agree, like it or not, it seems to be a part of our job in HR. x:-)
  • you need to discuss this matter with the ee, as mentioned earlier be professional, but direct. Beating around the bush does nothing to help it only delays what you need to do. I have had this situration several times lover the years.

    Good Luck
  • TONIA: I take a different approach and my phylosophy for our HR roles within companies. Why do things like this roll naturally to the HR? The answer is because we let it! Since when did it become the role of the HR to set company values and enforce same! The answer is: We HRs let it. I have every respect for our plant management and I have assisted these managgers, who make a lot more money than I do, handle their people problems.

    You can wade in and follow the advice given above and from that time on you will be tied down, as the enforcer of company standards and conditions. Taking the same story as you pdpicted the circumsatance, I would start with Supervisor/manager meetings with the chain of concern. It is their problem to solve not the HRs. Just ask yourself one question: Self: If the outcome is termination for failure to correct the issue who signs the warnings and eventual termination. Who handles the oversite of the appeals process? Who handles the process of record keeping and sensitivity issues for the company. If you are inserted into the line of authority, who acts in your capacity when you have spoiled the mix for being directly involved?

    I advise you to put this issue in the hands of the management chain. Sure I have handle many a personal issue for someone who is to weak to be a manager, but you can bet they are not given my support when it comes time to look for a deserving leader for promotion. Teach and Train falls under our hats and that is where you should keep it. You can not teach an adult by doing the work for them.


  • Where did you learn to spell?
  • I don't think it is our job at all. It's his manager's job. HR can help the manager if he/she doesn't know what they are doing, but it ain't HR's job. JMHO
  • I agree, I think it's the manager's job. That said, I don't mind stepping in & helping a manager out every now and again with this issue. And - even if it doesn't mean actually saying something to the employee - it sure means giving advice to a manager or supervisor about how to address this particular issue with an employee - this is fully what I meant by saying it seems to be a part of our jobs...
  • I agree that this should ideally fall under the supervisor's role, just like any performance issue. But it doesn't always work that way. You decide what works in your company: if you can train your managers, great! If not- be kind, be sensitive, but be direct. (Or pass out nose plugs - your choice.)
  • lorrie, oh how I agree. I only wish I had supervisors and managers that could handle these problems.
  • Sometimes HR will try to validate their existence by handling these type of issues. IMHO that is a bad idea. If you never make the supervisor handle this stuff they never will.

    It's like handing a crack addict some crack every day and then standing back and wondering why they can't stop. You are contributing to the problem.
  • >Sometimes HR will try to validate their
    >existence by handling these type of issues.
    >IMHO that is a bad idea. If you never make the
    >supervisor handle this stuff they never will.
    >It's like handing a crack addict some crack
    >every day and then standing back and wondering
    >why they can't stop. You are contributing to
    >the problem.

    I agree that supervisors and managers should handle these issues. But, I don't believe that HR tries to validate their existance, there is plenty to keep us busy without looking for more. We don't all live in a perfect world and there are no Walgreen's across the street. The auto. industry has put some of us suppliers in tough siturations. After 2 years of a hiring freeze, turnover increasing do to job security, every job needs to be filled from inside or by temp. ee's the old "Peter Principle" starts to take effect, and HR has no choice but to get involved in areas that they shouldn't or want to be in. It is not to validate their exsistance it is for the exsistance and survival of the Company.

    Where is Walgreen's when you need them?

  • I do believe it should be up to the supervisor to handle these kinds of situations, as all situations arise regarding their employees, along with advice and a helping hand by HR..

    I do appreciate your input...
  • Its definitely best when supervisors take responsibility for finding solutions to staff problems within their own department.

    Often times an issue crosses departmental lines or the supervisor is at a loss as to what to do. Thats when I think its appropriate to involve HR. Ideally, HR can counsel the supervisor and help them find the solutions that they can implement on their own.

    I don't think its a good idea to create the perception that supervisors and manager can't come to HR with their problems. We just have to be careful that we don't become the "police" or the "hammer" for various departments. Its the difference between helping someone solve their problem and solving it for them.
  • PAUL: Well stated and on point.

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