How to Address Odors in the Workplace

by M. Scilly; Updated September 26, 2017
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With several people working together in a small environment like an office or even on an outdoor job site, odors may become an issue. According to MSNBC, 74 percent of human resources professionals have had to deal with body odor issues. Additionally, manager may have to deal with issues of food odor, product scents and cigarette smoke. These can be sensitive topics which must be dealt with tactfully. Treat employees with respect, but address the issue directly so that you can resolve it.

Body Odor

Step 1

Speak to the employee directly. In a situation like this it is best to address the issue directly. Speak with the employee privately and explain that there are issues with her odor. Be aware that this is a sensitive topic. Be concerned, but don't blame the employee.

Step 2

Suggest ways that the employee can deal with the problem. Body odor can be the result of a medical condition, so you should suggest that the employee consult a doctor. If it is simply an issue of poor personal hygiene, it may be enough to ask the employee to bath regularly and wear fresh clothing.

Step 3

Provide support to the employee. Understand that this may be a difficult issue for him to deal with. Let him know that this issue does not relate to his performance and be certain to protect him from other employees. If other employees attempt to address the issue, take them aside, tell them you will deal with the issue and ask them not to confront the employee at issue.

Step 4

Follow-up with the employee after she has had the chance to adjust. If she corrects the problem, thank her and move on. If the issue persists, let the employee know and discuss strategies for dealing with it. Ask the employee what she has done to correct the problem.

Step 5

Consult with a lawyer if your employee refuses to deal with the issue. It may be grounds for dismissal, but you need to consult with a lawyer to make sure you are not discriminating against the employee.

Other Odors

Step 1

Ban foods and beverages other than water from the work area. Ask employees to only eat food in a designated lunch room. Tell employees to keep their food in air-tight containers if it emits odors. Food should be stored in a designated area in the lunch room. Don't attempt to ban foods with strong odors, as this may offend people whose religious or cultural diet includes pungent foods.

Step 2

Declare a scent-free policy in your workplace to eliminate problems from the smell of perfumes and other personal care products. This is important if you have someone in the office with a scent allergy, but it is also beneficial if the perfume smells are simply unpleasant. Remind the employees that scent-free deodorants, shampoos and other personal care products are available, to avoid turning your scent problem into a body odor problem.

Step 3

Ban smoking from your offices if it is not already prohibited by law. Instead of having a smoking room, ask employees to go outside if they wish to smoke. If an employee smells heavily of cigarettes when coming to the office, address this as you would a body odor issue. Speak with her, explain the issue and offer suggestions for dealing with the odor such as regularly washing clothing and bathing before work.

References

About the Author

M. Scilly is a writer and editor who writes for various online publications, specializing in business and management. He has a fondness for travel and photography. In his free time he enjoys marathon training.

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