Skip to content
Home » HR Industry Articles » Addressing Workplace Odor Concerns: A Compassionate Approach for Employers

Addressing Workplace Odor Concerns: A Compassionate Approach for Employers

    Unpleasant odors in the workplace can create an uncomfortable and challenging environment for everyone. When an employee’s personal hygiene issues result in bad body odor, employers are faced with a delicate situation that requires sensitivity, professionalism, and empathy. In this blog post, we will discuss how employers can effectively address the issue of an employee who smells bad while maintaining respect for their dignity and rights.

    1. Private Discussion:

    The first step in addressing this issue is to have a private discussion with the employee. Do so in a discreet and respectful manner to avoid causing embarrassment. Choose a neutral and private location, away from the prying eyes and ears of coworkers, and ensure that the conversation is kept confidential. This discussion is an opportunity to express concern for the employee’s well-being and professional image.

    2. Choose the Right Words:

    During the conversation, it’s crucial to choose your words carefully. Instead of using blunt language, be tactful and compassionate. Employ active listening skills to understand the underlying issues that may be causing the odor problem. Remember that this may be a sensitive topic for the employee, so your choice of words can have a significant impact on the conversation’s outcome.

    3. Ask Open-Ended Questions:

    Encourage the employee to share their perspective. Asking open-ended questions allows them to express themselves and provides you with valuable insights into the situation. For example, you could ask, “Is everything okay? I’ve noticed a change recently, and I wanted to see how you’re feeling.”

    4. Offer Support:

    Demonstrate that you are willing to help the employee address the issue. Offer resources or assistance, such as information on maintaining personal hygiene, access to a private space for freshening up, or even flexibility in their schedule to accommodate their needs. This shows your commitment to their well-being and success.

    5. Avoid Making Assumptions:

    It’s essential not to make assumptions about the cause of the odor. There could be underlying medical or personal issues contributing to the problem. Be empathetic and understanding, as there might be reasons beyond the employee’s control.

    6. Address Medical or Personal Issues:

    If the employee discloses that the odor issue is due to a medical condition, it’s important to respect their privacy and engage in a supportive dialogue. Discuss reasonable accommodations, such as adjusting their work environment or schedule, to help them manage their condition effectively while maintaining their dignity.

    7. Set Clear Expectations:

    During the conversation, establish clear expectations for personal hygiene in the workplace. It’s important to remind the employee of the company’s dress code and personal hygiene standards, and explain that these are in place to ensure a comfortable and professional work environment.

    8. Encourage Self-Improvement:

    Suggest self-improvement measures, such as using deodorant, taking regular showers, and laundering clothes properly. Provide resources or guidance on proper personal hygiene, or recommend seeking advice from a healthcare professional if necessary.

    9. Follow Up:

    After the initial discussion, schedule a follow-up meeting with the employee to assess their progress and offer ongoing support. This demonstrates your commitment to helping them resolve the issue and ensures that the situation doesn’t worsen.

    10. Seek Legal Advice if Necessary:

    In some cases, odor issues may persist, or the employee may not be receptive to feedback and assistance. If it becomes necessary, consult with your HR department or legal counsel to ensure that any actions taken are in compliance with employment laws and regulations. Terminating an employee should be a last resort, but it might be necessary in extreme cases.

    11. Maintain Confidentiality:

    Throughout this process, it’s vital to maintain the confidentiality of the situation. Never discuss the employee’s personal hygiene issues with coworkers or other employees. Respecting their privacy is crucial in maintaining a professional and respectful work environment.

    12. Promote a Healthy Workplace Culture:

    Preventing workplace odor issues in the first place is always preferable to addressing them. As an employer, you can help promote a culture of cleanliness and professionalism in the workplace. Consider implementing policies that encourage personal hygiene, provide hygiene resources, and create a comfortable and clean work environment.


    Addressing the issue of an employee with bad body odor can be challenging, but it’s important to approach it with empathy, respect, and professionalism. By having private discussions, offering support, and maintaining confidentiality, employers can help employees address the issue while preserving their dignity. It’s also crucial to remember that personal hygiene issues may be the result of underlying medical or personal challenges, and a compassionate approach is essential in these situations. Ultimately, a healthy and respectful workplace culture is the foundation for addressing and preventing such issues with care and understanding.

    Note: Information found on this site is information only and is not intended to be used as legal advice. Please consult your counsel for specific legal advice.