Subtle Tips to Approaching Employees with Hygiene Problems

Ignoring poor employee hygiene in the workplace can cost your company money, since it can diminish productivity and employee satisfaction. When confronted with poor staff hygiene, however, it is your job as the employer to handle the situation respectfully.

It may be humiliating for you, but it will be even more embarrassing for the other person, and you don’t want them to feel self-conscious.¬†

What constitutes bad hygiene?

It’s not clear what constitutes ‘bad hygiene,’ although it could include the following:

  • Body odor that is unpleasant
  • In the kitchen or the restroom, behaving badly is not acceptable.
  • Improper sneeze or coughing technique leads to spitting on the ground.
  • Soiled garments

These types of poor hygiene must be handled differently, as some may have a greater impact on health and safety (e.g., inappropriate sneezing, especially during COVID) while others may generate greater dissatisfaction among coworkers (e.g. bad body odor, spitting).

Employers must understand that their management actions must be proportional to the employee’s behavior when dealing with these concerns.

Here are some points to assist you to get through the procedure.

  • Try not to be the first to fire the gun.

You must take your time in these instances due to the sensitive nature of the subject. Before approaching your employee, wait until there is a pattern of bad hygiene. It’s not a crime to run out of deodorant, and even the most dedicated of us may have forgotten to take a shower in exchange for a few extra hours of sleep. It’s best to be cautious in these cases so as not to cause a problem based on a single occurrence.

You should also think about how you’ll approach the subject with your employee. This may necessitate modifying the conversation dependent on your employee’s attitude and your relationship with them. Whatever you do, avoid framing the dialogue in a condescending manner. Approach it as constructive feedback, just as you would any other workplace issue.

  • A face-to-face approach is the most effective.

As a leader, you must demonstrate courage because you are the role model for your staff. You don’t want to embarrass your employee any further. Instead of using passive-aggressive tactics like placing deodorant or body spray at their desk or sending them a message, show compassion and kindness. That will not solve the problem and may make matters worse.

Find a quiet spot where you can have a face-to-face talk. When you appropriately manage situations like these, it helps you, the person in question, and the entire organization. You can show some compassion while maintaining your firmness. Employees value honesty, but if the problem was brought up by another employee, it might be nicer to keep this information from them. It will simply increase their self-consciousness.

  • Give some sound counsel.

There are various reasons why someone might have hygiene issues. They could be coping with anything from an underlying health problem to a deodorant that isn’t working. Even the material used in their apparel could be an issue.

Furthermore, a hygiene problem could be a sign of poor mental health or other personal difficulties, so it’s good starting the conversation from a point of concern. You should be ready for this situation, but don’t make any assumptions.

  • Make a point of following up.

The first chat is insufficient. You must contact the employee and inform them that you will be doing so. Allow them a week or two to make the required adjustments before you sit down again. This allows you to see if the problem has been resolved, and if it hasn’t, you can come up with a new plan. If the problem has been remedied, you should praise them for their efforts.

The aftermath

There’s no way of knowing how the employee in issue will react once you address them. Anger or tears are two possible emotions. In this circumstance, we propose assuring the employee that they will not be dismissed and explaining how you intend to work with them to resolve the matter.


Ignoring hygiene issues might cost your company money. Employee cleanliness might affect their coworkers’ productivity and lower general satisfaction in the workplace. Promoting good office hygiene (such as clean toilets, kitchens, and sufficient hand-washing supplies) sets a standard for employees to follow in the workplace. It’s also possible to add general hygiene guidelines in your employee handbooks, such as hand washing and clean workspaces.

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