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Smelling a Problem: Here Are 12 Compassionate Tips to Address Body Odor With an Employee

Telling someone they have body odor or stink can be an uncomfortable conversation for both parties. One Facebook user asked for advice ina  cleaning group: “Please help me with the most diplomatic, kind way to tell someone they stink. Hired a new employee and she smells so bad of dirty wet dog. Her clothes are covered in dog hair.”

The Diplomatic Approach

The Diplomatic Approach.
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Of course, you have to address the situation directly. However, it needs to be done with tact and empathy, according to one respondent. They suggested to approach it with a letter with employees: 

“Hi [Employee Name],

I hope you’re settling in well in your new role, and I want to express my appreciation for the good work you’ve been doing. There’s something I’d like to discuss with you, and I want to emphasize that this comes from a place of care and concern.

I’ve noticed that there might be an odor issue with some of your clothing. I understand that personal situations can sometimes lead to these challenges, and I’m here to support you. Our work environment is important not only for our team but also for our clients, and I believe we can find a solution together.

Is there anything you’d like to share or discuss regarding this matter? Perhaps we can explore options to make your work environment more comfortable for you and our clients.

Please know that my intention is to assist you, and I value your contributions to our team. Let’s work together to find a resolution that works for everyone. Thank you for your understanding and openness.

Best regards,

[Your Name]”

This message conveys your concern while offering support and understanding, making it more likely that the issue can be addressed positively.”

Provide an Alternative

Provide an Alternative.
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One replied that “…maybe she doesn’t have a way to wash her clothes and she is in a really rough financial spot. I would maybe try to find out a bit more of her home life and then be super gentle, like I can’t help but notice you have some dog hair on your clothes, some of our clients have allergies, so would you mind changing into this extra pair I brought you?”

Think About Medical Conditions

Think about Medical Conditions.
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Another suggested that it could be a medical condition such as hormonal changes, excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis), and certain medications that have a smell. A trip to the doctor’s office may be called for. Just approach the situation with kindness, grace, and caution. You never know what someone is going through.

Launder Their Uniforms

Launder Their Uniforms.
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If an employee’s uniform is causing a persistent and unpleasant odor, it may be appropriate for the employer to launder the uniform to help address the issue. However, whether or not the employer is responsible for laundering the uniform will depend on the specific circumstances and any agreements or policies in place.

If the employee is responsible for laundering their own uniform, it may be appropriate for the employer to provide guidance on how to properly clean the uniform to help eliminate any odors. This could include providing instructions on the appropriate cleaning products and techniques to use or offering resources such as access to a laundry facility or reimbursement for laundry expenses. There are specific detergents for animals.

One user said, “If you are an avoidant personality and don’t want to step outside of that comfort zone: buy matching scrubs for you and your employee. At the end of the shift supply her with a clean pair for the next day and then wash the dirty. Many businesses do this for their employees. It’s not weird.”

Consider Time When Approaching Her

Consider Time When Approaching Her.
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Talking to someone about body odor is sensitive. One user said to “Do it at the end of the day, so she can think and sleep on it; instead of the beginning as that may throw her off mentally.

Be sure to make sure the employee is ok and ask if there is anything you can do to help.

Discuss Policies With Everyone

Discuss Policies with Everyone.
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One person advised against singling out the employee. They suggested making a general statement to all employees and review the handbook. “I would go through a few different policies and details, then throw in a hygiene/presentation policy in the mix. Say the policy indicates that employees must wear clean clothes each day, and if anyone has something preventing any of these policies from being fulfilled, they can come to you in private.  

Make a Goody Basket

Make a Goody Basket.
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Some suggested giving the employee a goody basket. They recommended putting “some snacks, smelly good stuff, lint roller, sample bottle of diva laundry detergent, [and]  just random goodies to thank her for doing a good job. 

Be Kind

Be Kind.
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One user said, “This was so hard at every job where I was a manager. I found the best way is to be personable, ask if she is struggling to have somewhere to wash clothes or bathe. I liked to give a giftcard for target or Walmart to get anything they may need to make this happen. Everytime I’ve been “professional” it’s backfired and they got their feelings hurt, being gentle, kind and upfront definitely works better from my experience. One time I had an employee open up about being homeless. I will say, I’d address it all at once so they don’t feel you’re nit picking but rather understand this is an issue for clients and you love her and want to [help] her however you can help, but it’s a problem and you’re there to help find a conclusion.”

Blame Someone Else

Blame Someone Else.
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You could try telling her that someone else mentioned it to you, so of course, you had to bring it to her attention.

Focus on the Pet Hair

family holiday celebrate.
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You could try to put the focus more on the pet hair than the smell. You can tell her that she needs to change her clothes before entering the clients’ homes because some of the clients are complaining about the pet hair or have allergies. “Clean clothes might solve both problems.”

Make Sure Her Washer Is Clean

Make Sure Her Washer is Clean.
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Someone suggested that it could be her washing machine not cleaning the clothes properly. They suggested using a cleaning pod. If not, separating work and personal clothes to be laundered may help. Make sure she is not letting the clothes sit in the washer at the end of the cycle.

Do Nothing

minimalism vs simple living.
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Another conceded, “I wouldn’t address it. I’d find an alternative that doesn’t involve embarrassing her because approaching her with this is a lose-lose.”This article was inspired by a facebook thread and meant to be helpful. Provide additional suggestions in the comments.

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