How to Tell a Colleague They SmellYou’re probably not the only person who’s being affected by this; the whole team will be affected. The important things here are approaching them in a respectful way and allowing them to retain their dignity.
This is one of the most sensitive office issues: telling a colleague they smell bad. The thing is, no matter how bad a colleague’s body odour is, you don’t want to upset or offend them. We all just want to work in comfortable surroundings and get on with our jobs.
But what if you’ve put up with days or weeks or more enduring someone’s bad body odour? You’re probably not the only person who’s being affected by this; the whole team will be affected. There’s only one thing for it, and that’s to confront your colleague. The important things here are approaching them in a respectful way and allowing them to retain their dignity.
Don’t do this
Don’t leave little clues lying around and hope to get the message across. You might decide to leave cans of deodorant strategically placed near the offending colleague’s desk. This is not a good idea. It’s probably unlikely to work because the person is unlikely to know that he or she has a body odour problem. And if they do realise what’s going, it’s going to cause them major unnecessary upset and embarrassment.
Don’t shift the blame by telling your colleague that you’re just passing a message from another colleague or group of colleagues. This will magnify the person’s embarrassment because they will realise that the entire office has been talking about them behind their back. The person could be so distraught that they could even quit their job.
Do this instead
You’ll have to approach your colleague directly. Luckily there are a few steps you can take to make this experience less embarrassing for both of you and allow you to maintain a positive working relationship.
1. Do it in a comfortable setting
This matter requires privacy and a comfortable setting. Invite your colleague to lunch at a local cafe where you’re unlikely to bump into other people from work.
2. Tell your colleague you like them
Start with a little light chat. Don’t rush straight into it like a bull in a china shop. Then, introduce the idea that you have something you’d like to talk to them about. Say the topic is very sensitive and that you’re telling them because they’re a friend.
3. Give them a choice
Tell them that what you are about to say might cause offense and ask them if they want to hear it or not. They’re unlikely to say no but giving them a choice allows them some sort of control.
4. Explain respectfully
Remember to be as tactful as possible. Downplay the issue by saying you’ve noticed that in hot weather they have sometimes given off body odour.
5. Remind them they’re your friend
Remind them that you are only telling them because you have their best interests at heart. Re-confirm your relationship. Tell them that because they’re your friend, you’d rather they heard it from you than from anyone else. Ask them if they are offended and if you did the right thing by talking to them.