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Ask the HR Expert — March 8, 2018

Jill Schaefer /
  • Categories: HR
Bad Hygiene

Q: I have an employee who doesn’t maintain good hygiene.

How do I broach this delicate topic with this employee?

A: The first thing you want to do is have the conversation in a private location. If the employee’s gender is different than yours, you may also want to have a witness of the same gender as the employee attend.

Communicate to the employee that the conversation isn’t meant to embarrass him/her, but rather is to address the fact that his/her personal hygiene has declined and is not meeting your organization’s satisfactory standard as set forth in your personal appearance, grooming, or dress code policy.

KPA’s Talking Points for Personal Hygiene
The following script can be helpful in broaching this topic.

  • [Name], I need to speak to you about an issue that’s been brought to my attention.
  • As a general observation, we are pleased with your performance in your role as a [job title(include only if accurate).
  • I asked to speak with you today about something that has to do with your personal hygiene, not how you perform your job on a day-to-day basis.
  • I am sure you won’t be surprised that our expectation for our employees is that they all maintain a professional working environment and demonstrate professional courtesy. This includes having good personal hygiene.
  • It’s been brought to my attention that you have bad breath. We need you to exercise better personal hygiene.
  • People have been uncomfortable working in such close quarters with you. It is important for you to immediately take steps to address this concern.
  • I suspect this might be difficult news to hear and that you would have preferred for someone concerned about this to come directly to you. Unfortunately, that can be a very difficult conversation to have with a work colleague.
  • (If applicable) I wanted to let you know that we have an array of services for employees. If you think it would be helpful to meet with an EAP counselor, I would be happy to refer you to that program.
  • Do you have any questions?

Bottom Line:
You can’t put this off. Engage with the employee in private and try to be as empathetic as possible.

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