Dienstag, 23. Januar 2018

What to do if your co-worker smells?

Do you know that uneasy feeling, that befalls you when you notice that your co-worker doesn’t smell so fresh anymore? And it’s no like you both work at a construction site or in any other field that regularly requires hard physical work or it’s the middle of summer... Well, seems like you can’t make up any more excuses for them. But you start feeling uneasy, because you know that there’s no subtle way to talk about it. But should you even say something or should common sense and decency keep you from it? Would it be rude? Because this probably isn’t the only uncomfortable situation that you have to talk out with your co-workers, read on to find out about the diplomatic way to deal with these situations.

Body odour is still one of the few remaining taboos. It doesn’t matter how we look at it – cleanliness and a flawless personal hygiene are criteria that we hold in high regard and therefore easily judge others based on them. That’s why it will be obvious to any of us just how exposed someone else might feel if their hygiene is being criticized. We can’t help taking every negative comment regarding this topic deeply personally. And because we as humans are capable of empathy, we can understand how they feel. That’s why we are almost just as ashamed to point out a lack of hygiene to others as they must be hearing about it. The funny thing – studies show that most people would be thankful to others, if those pointed out their flaws.

Of utmost importance, however, is the way to communicate it. Nobody wants to feel judged, exposed or compromised. That’s why you shouldn’t talk to all other co-workers beforehand, turning the one with the problem into the talk of the town. It’s best if you ask your co-worker aside, so that you can speak to them privately. A good start is a statement, like: “I really value you as a colleague and as a human being, but I would nevertheless also want to know if I was in this position...” You’ll immediately show them that you are not about to attack them personally. Not that great would be saying: “Everybody else thinks that...”, because the statement implies that everybody knows and talks behind your co-worker’s back.

It gets a little bit more complicated if it’s not your co-worker, but your boss. In this case, it would be wiser to let the person from your department who is closest to your boss do the talking, in private and using an opening remark like: “I thought it would be good to let you know about something before a client notices...”.

Whatever the actual, real situation may be, not saying anything is the worst solution. As long as it’s done empathically and respectfully, they will be tankful to you for guarding them from even greater embarrassment. 

Pic.: © helpingwriterstobecomeauthors.com

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