Hi there,

Listened to the body odour podcast just too late. (Sorry this is a little bit of a long story).

Recently had an issue with a member of my department (but who reports to another manager on another site, and not me) in relation to his body odour. Unfortunately this had been raised as an issue in the past by me to his previous line manager with no results.

We have recently moved around the office and members of my team raised the issue again. Fortunately his manager was in the office on the same day as the complaint. So I spoke to the manager in private and told him the history and that another complaint had been raised.
He stated that he had a one to one scheduled the following week and would talk to him then.

In this one to one his manager had stated to him that there had been a complaint about his personal hygiene. He went on to say that this had been raised once before this current issue and his was annoyed that it hadn’t been dealt with by his previous manager. His also stated that he speak to me as the complaint had been raised by my team and that I was the manager of the department in that site. There did not seem to be any discussion about change or any follow up meetings.

I found this out as he asked to have a meeting with me today, a few days after his one to one (once I had gone back into the office). I was a little surprised to hear how my colleague had discussed this issue with him, and stated that at no point had a complaint been raised about his personal hygiene. But stated that a concern had been raised about his body odour. Unfortunately when he asked for specifics I did not have them (this is where listening to the podcast late comes in), and therefore had to state that I would find out and get back to him. Added to this he stated that he was not aware of any problems with his body odour and showered often.

I have now followed this up with my team and got the specifics of the issue which seems to be stale sweat odour, and occurs on a reugular basis.

I am concerned on how to proceed as his knows that a number of complaints have been made from my team who he works with. Plus the fact that he does not think he has a problem.

After all that has anyone got any advice.

WillDuke's picture
Training Badge

Remember it's not body odor. It's not hygiene. It's his personal scent. This alleviates the stigma of the situation. That being said, you said you listened to the podcast. Is there a specific question you have? The cast is pretty clear in how to proceed. :)

England77's picture

Hi Will,

Thanks for the reply.

My concern is that he already knows that there has been previous complaints by members of the team. So I can't use the 'I have noticed' claim, as this may not seem genuine.

How far can I go with suggestions of change, e.g. tying new deodorant / anit perspirant, seeking medical advice etc. As he thinks that he does not have a problem.

WillDuke's picture
Training Badge

Is he your direct? Have you talked to him?

If you haven't talked to him, I'd stick with the basic idea of scent. If he asked who complained, just say that you noticed.

I would try to avoid making any suggestions. Ask him what he thinks he could do differently. If you think that will work, go with it. If not, nudge a little harder.

Disclaimer - I haven't listened to the scent cast for a while. But I remember thinking it was brilliant. It really seemed like it would take the edge off the whole thing.

This is just one of those ugly manager moments where you have to just do it. You'll feel awkward, there's no way around that. Some of these tips will ease the pain, but this is why you get the check. :)

jhack's picture

Have you yourself noticed it? If you have not, are you really sure the problem is with his personal scent?


Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge

First off, I don't think there's a big issue with whether you have personally noticed his scent. If you believe that there is a problem, that's enough.

Are you saying that he has said he is unwilling to change anything? Or is it that he doesn't know what to do, or doesn't agree with the feedback?


England77's picture

Hi Mark,

Thanks for the comments.

I thinks the problem is that he doesn't think he has a problem as he has not noticed or been told of this issue before, and does seem unwilling to suggest changes because if this.

My concern is how personal can I go with suggestions??

juliahhavener's picture
Licensee Badge


I would avoid suggestions unless you _know_ the cause. Since you know what the scent appears to be, you may find that he suddenly realizes his riding his bike to work each day may create an issue for him. This is simply a frank discussion without judgement on him - only on the impact of the scent. Suggestions aren't really necessary unless he asks for them.

As for you not personally experiencing it, I wouldn't let that stand in the way of addressing it if you believe it to be an issue. I have found that my nose isn't particularly good. If I were a bloodhound, I would have real problems. One of my team members has had issues with personal scent (the musty odor commonly caused by leaving laundry too long in the washer). I cannot smell it. My team members can - one of those is pregnant and is very sensitive to smells right now. This creates problems in the productivity of the team. After some discussion, it hasn't been the issue it was. He's gotten over asking 'who', and I've gotten better about simply addressing the impact to our effectiveness and the impression he makes as he looks to move up in the company (which is a primary motivator for him).

JorrianGelink's picture


Interesting subject, I have a suggestion on how you can approach it. First thing is first, if it is affecting the team it needs to be dealt with, as not dealing with it properly may have the team look at you dissatisfied.

Again maybe sit down with him and let him know this is what others or you have noticed, that throughout the day or at certain times of the day there is body odor, and there is nothing wrong with that and you want to help him. The reason the team brought it up is 1. They care about him and want to help him succeed and 2. It may be affecting their performance. I'm sure if anyone didn't have an attractive smell, you would rather be told other than walking around not smelling great all day oblivious to what is going on.

At this point you may find out why it's occurring and he'll be thinking of ideas on how to fix it, if he needs ideas he'll ask and you can support him. Let him know you'll continue to gather staff feedback as it is the right thing to do to see if things change.

Two things will happen from that:
1. He smells awesome and impresses the staff or doesn't smell at all and impresses the staff
2. He makes an excuse of how he doesn't notice it so he shouldn't fix it or walks away nodding and a week from now there are still complaints (from your promised imformation gathering). Then you have a "will" issue as opposed to a "skill/information" issue and that's a different story.

Hope that helps or gives you an idea of a direction to take :)

scm2423's picture

A couple of employees raised a concern with me today about the manner in which one of our co-workers flushed the toilet.  My employee prefer to use a foot to flush the toilet and others are concerned that this is:

  1. causing issues with the toilet, the handle is constantly breaking
  2. getting the germs from the floor where others have to touch

I have a good relationship with everyone and said I would discuss this as sensitively as possible.  Admittedly we are speculating, but believe the employee concerned has some OCD tendencies and this is what is causing the behaviour.  I am not really concerned with why, but I want to discuss this and see what we can do to change the behavoir.

Any suggestions on how to handle this?  I am going to listen to the body odour cast again.  I never thought I would be dealing with issues like this, but that's what I have been given.

ashdenver's picture

Unless one is picking their nose, sucking their thumb or randomly poking themselves in the eye between the time they flush the toilet from their use to the time they wash their hands (hopefully before they leave the restroom), then the germs thing is actually funny.  The guy or gal who uses their foot to flush is concerned about germs too (which, for the very same reasons, is funny) because the person who used the toilet before them ostensibly got "things" on their hand while in the course of normal toilet operations.  The germs from one's hand or the bottom of one's foot become negligible when one washes their hands, well and thoroughly!  (Lather up and rub hands together for 20 seconds or two sets of the Happy Birthday song before rinsing.)   

If the hand-flushers wash their hands well, they needn't worry about the foot-flusher.

If the foot-flushers washes their hands well, they needn't worry about the hand-flushers.

Unless or until the building maintance crew or owners decide to invest in the light-sensor automatic-flushing gizmos, everybody needs to learn to wash their hands.  

That said, breaking the toilet is NOT a good thing and should be addressed.  If it were me, I wouldn't try to single out anyone who may or may not be a foot-flusher.  Instead I would talk to everyone at the same time about hand- versus foot-flushing and the merits of appropriate hand-washing.  

I would see if we could all agree to be Grade A Hand Washers no matter what (kind of like a team norm, if you will.)  As a by-product of "gee, isn't this great, we've all agreed to be fantastic hand-washers" it would now be appropriate to mention one other thing related to the restrooms: care of company property.  No one wants to dictate how anyone else conducts their bathroom practices however it's important to recognize that handles are designed to be operated with the hand, not the foot. 

If someone is still fearful of germs when flushing, a simple solution that would save some wear & tear on the handles is that the person tear off an extra three squares of toilet paper to use to hand-flush the toilet, dropping the paper into the toilet as it flushes.  (Though, if one is really that much of a germ-a-phobe, how do they open the stall door with their feet?) 

In general, I don't think it's a good idea to address a specific issue with a large group of people (for instance "You all need to be on time to work" when it's apparent there's only one culprit) but in the case of something like this, where the "deeds" being discussed happen behind closed doors and do not pertain to getting the work done, I feel it would be highly inappropriate to single out one person about something that's not really job-related that no one can really verify. 

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