How to improve your business scents
Bad smells affect interpersonal relationships, morale
ANY of our readers have been rejoicing and enjoying the forecast for hot, hot and “stinking hot” summer weather. People automatically think of beach time, family picnics in the park, family vacations at the lake and/or dancing at the annual Folk Festival.
However, on the other side of the equation, we have the challenge of our hot bodies sweating, and all those efforts we take in trying to cool down. Yet, if we don’t take care of ourselves, sweat can turn into pretty offensive body odour. This might not be noticed at the lake and/or it could be forgiven while at the Folk Festival, but it is a whole other story when it occurs in the workplace.
Most of the time, we don’t even realize the power or influence of the smells and scents around us. Yet today, workplaces are dealing with allergy issues against perfume, and many have banned perfume of all kinds. However, we also know that distasteful odours in the workplace — including cigarette smoke, various air freshening sprays, smelly fish in the lunchroom and/or all those forgotten foods in the staff refrigerator — are often cited as problem areas.
Distasteful smells in the workplace interfere in thinking processes and make the work environment uncomfortable. It causes fellow employees to isolate their colleague and/or make fun of them, which in turn creates workplace cliques and poor interpersonal relationships. Smell also influences our mood, emotions, everyday thoughts and the enjoyment of our surroundings.
The most challenging odour issue to deal with is that foul, “stinking hot”
Mand smelly body odour projected by an employee with poor personal hygiene. That’s because it is an embarrassing issue for the employee, but also a challenge for a manager who now has to find a way to discuss the issue and hopefully find a solution. Not only that, the employee may also be experiencing a confidential, underlying health problem. At one time, managers believed that personal body odour was indeed personal and the workplace had no business interfering. However, that is no longer the case.
Employees experiencing isolation from colleagues because of personal hygiene issues is a workplace issue. The manager’s job is to ensure a comfortable and safe place to work for all employees. Not only that, if a manager continually delays action, the employee might well become a walking health hazard. So, no matter what, management must deal with the situation.
While a conversation with the offending employee will undoubtedly be sensitive, in many cases you will find that the individual is not fully aware of their problem. If they are aware of the issue, they often don’t know what to do about it and/or simply haven’t sought medical help for this problem. Of course, there are always those employees who just don’t take pride in personal hygiene.
The following tips will help to guide you through this awkward conversation.
Individual approach: If an individual employee is concerned about the personal hygiene of a colleague, the question is “do I or don’t I” confront the individual? While a personal intervention can work, it will depend on the character of the individuals, the ability of one employee to raise the issue in a sensitive way as well as the anticipated response. Make this determination before you try, and if you do not feel safe, discuss the issue with management.
Management planning: Management needs to be honest and direct, yet considerate, all at the same time. Keep in mind that it is not what you say but how you say it, so plan your conversation… what you will say, the anticipated response such as self-consciousness and/or anger about your intrusion into their life.
Set a private meeting: Whereas in most cases this conversation will be sensitive, set a confidential meeting in a location where you not only have privacy but where the individual doesn’t have to return to their workstation by encountering a long line of gawking colleagues.
State your case: Begin your meeting by addressing the need for the meeting, in that the issue of personal hygiene and body odour has come to your attention. Ask if the individual is aware of this, and if there is a health issue that management needs to be aware of so accommodation can be considered.
Take a coaching approach: Take a moment to review your dress and hygiene policy, and depending on the employee’s response, prepare your declaration statement of what needs to be done and when. Keep in mind the individual will be self-conscious. Be sure to offer to help the individual explore your employee assistance benefits. Engage the employee to help them understand the issue as an organizational issue, and invite them to suggest solutions.
Health problems: If you identify a health problem, direct the employee to visit their physician to discuss the issue and to return with further suggestions to overcome the problem.
Provide general education: While the current issue may be isolated to one person, this is a good time to review your policy and procedures with respect to hygiene and to educate employees on this issue. This could include a lunch-and-learn about various products people are allergic to, and how scents can impact a person’s health. Some perfumes, for instance, can cause an allergic reaction which results in days off work.
Hold a second meeting: Follow up with the individual and provide encouragement on any positive changes. Restate your support, but ensure the individual is aware of the dress and hygiene code at your organization.
While the fastest-growing “smell” issue in the workplace is that of perfume and other fragrances, body odour resulting from poor hygiene, especially in a hot summer, can result in serious problems, including morale, productivity and poor interpersonal relationships amongst employees. It is an issue that cannot be left with the hope it will self-correct.
Have courage, and take steps at the first hint of a problem.
Smells, like strong perfume or body odour, can make the work environment uncomfortable.