One of the guys I work with smells really bad. I don’t know if he doesn’t bathe or never washes his clothes but he reeks. It’s bad enough when I have to walk by his cubicle (I usually hold my breath), but when I’m stuck next to him in a meeting, it’s just awful. He has really bad breath, too. How do I tell him without hurting his feelings?
A.This is a fairly common problem in the workplace. And it’s one that can usually be addressed by following the Golden Rule. Put yourself in his place. If you were unintentionally offending co-workers – or customers – you’d want someone to tell you, right? Here’s what you do: Meet with the guy privately at the end of the workday (so he can go right home after you tell him). Say something like, “We should all look out for each other and I need to tell you something that I’d want to know.” Then proceed to explain that he is probably unaware, but he has noticeable body and breath odor. You might try to spare his feelings by implying that you don’t think anyone else has noticed and that you wanted to let him know before they do. It may be that he has a medical condition that is causing the problem. But if it’s simple hygiene, I’m sure he’ll appreciate the heads up. No one wants to smell bad.
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