Approaching the bad habits or poor hygiene of an employee is a difficult area, as an agency principal or brokerage manager runs the risk of offending the employee in question. However, bad breath, niggling coughs and foul body odor are all drains on productivity, a new survey from The Employment Office has found.
The poll found 75% of workers find it difficult to work alongside someone with bad body odor, and 64% work poorly when a colleague has bad breath. Other drains on concentration included persistent coughing (60%) and excessive flatulence (48%).
“It is important for an employer to resolve any personal hygiene issues before other staff members do it in a non-tactful way. If this happens the problem can easily escalate and become a bullying issue,” Tudor Marsden-Huggins of Employment Office, said.
Marsden-Huggins suggested that managers must address problems with hygiene as soon as possible and in private. The topic needs to be approached directly, but considerately so that the employee understands it isn’t an attack of them but a move to increase comfort across the organization.
“The best thing to do is talk to your staff – create an environment where one-on-one communication is encouraged between employee and manager. This will go some way to dealing with delicate topics,” Marsden-Huggins said.
Key takeaways for managers
Susan Heathfield, US-based HR expert, outlined key points for managers to keep in mind when approaching the issue:
Have you had a staff member with bad breath, body odor or other problems with hygiene? Did it disrupt other workers and how did you deal with it?
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- Start with a soft approach to set the employee at ease, but don't beat around the bush.
- Tell the employee directly what the problem is as you perceive it.
- Whenever possible, attach the feedback to a business issue, such as the impact on the team.
- Advise that the behavior is not just affecting the business and the employee's co-workers, but may affect the employee's career.
- Be sensitive to the fact that different cultures have different norms and standards for appearance, bathing, and dress and differences in cooking and eating traditions, too.