A group of employees informs you that another employee has begun to exhibit bad hygiene and grooming. His hair is unkempt, his breath is foul, and his body odor is noticeably pungent to the employees seated around him. This employee is reliable and hard-working, making him a valuable member of your team. What do you do?
Do you know how to talk to an employee about hygiene? There’s no way the conversation can be anything shy of painfully awkward. Nevertheless, you should strive to minimize the embarrassment of your employee. Meet with the employee in a private place, free of eyes and interruptions. Hold the meeting at the end of the day and allow him to leave the office immediately after your meeting.
So what do you say during the meeting? Begin the conversation by telling him that he is a valued member of the team and that his job is not in jeopardy—this may ease his mind a bit. When you bring up his hygiene, be compassionate and kind, but also direct and clear: the bad hygiene is an issue and his behavior needs to change. Right now, you’re here to coach him, not discipline him. Focus on the company’s needs and expectations, and review the company policy with him.
Make sure you apply policies consistently and leave it to the employee to determine how best to comply with them. The next steps will depend on the employee. He may feel ashamed and embarrassed, even angry. These feelings would be understandable. Remember, however, that most employees want to perform well and do what is expected of them.
If an employee doesn’t make the necessary improvements, you may need to take disciplinary action. You may also need to keep an ear out for office gossip and look for signs that the employee is being alienated from the other employees. Each employee is responsible for maintaining his or her hygiene, but everyone is responsible for maintaining a healthy company culture.