It is a workplace issue that managers dread. Strong or excessive odors and fragrances are never welcome in the workplace, and some are certainly easier to discuss with employees than others. Whether the scent is caused by an individual wearing too much perfume or cologne, or emitting a strong body odor, managers need to know how to properly address and handle workplace odors. 

Odor-related issues can include: employees who smell of cigarette smoke, perfume and cologne, bad breath, flatulence, scented candles, lotions, or other scented office accessories. Offensive odors that aren’t caused by a potential personal/medical issue are certainly easier to address than body odors. 

When the bothersome smell is caused by something that is seemingly easy to fix, and less stressful to discuss, treat the situation as you would any other performance or work-related issue. Be consistent and address all issues that pertain to unpleasant odors; don’t cherry pick only the scents that employees complain about. Describe the situation, detail what has been observed or what the complaint has been, and address how it negatively impacts other employees and their productivity (i.e., an employee using a strong floral-scented lotion is giving her coworker a headache). 

Review and refer to the specific policy violation to support your request that the employee rectify the situation. It is important that organizational policies address personal hygiene and the excessive use of fragrance or other scents. This ensures that any discussions you have with employees can be addressed as a policy violation rather than interpreted as a negative, personal opinion of the complaining individual.

Give the employee a fair chance to respond to the concerns and to offer their own solution. After a resolution to the situation has been agreed upon, schedule a time to meet with your employee to follow up and discuss their progress towards rectifying the situation, or discuss any additional steps that are necessary. Just like any performance or work-related issue, be clear in your expectations and allow the employee a chance to improve.

Tune in next week when we discuss how to approach an employee with body odor. This necessary conversation is a difficult one to have, but there are ways to address the issue that will make it easier on both you and your employee.