Career clinic

A member of my team has bad personal hygiene problems. She
doesn’t appear to care or notice but the rest of the team certainly
has – I’ve heard them complaining about it – and service users must
be aware of it, too. I know it makes her colleagues uncomfortable
and think it is getting in the way of their ability to get on as a
team. I know I need to speak to her about it but am unsure how to
tackle the problem.

The temptation in a situation like this is to go for a subtle
approach, but these rarely work and are still likely to cause hurt.

It is much better to confront problems directly, and there are
several sensitive ways to do so. Approach your colleague at a time
when you can’t be overheard, as you do not want to give the
impression that people are talking behind her back.

You need to be upfront and tell her you have a difficult issue to
raise. But balance this by suggesting you think she’ll want to know
about it. This approach allows you to broach the subject as if you
have noticed it and are concerned for her – in other words, trying
to help. She is more likely to act on your comments if they are
delivered in a caring manner.

It’s important that you describe what you have noticed, rather than
offer subjective opinions by making comments such as “it’s
affecting the way others work”. Stick to the facts.

Make sure you end on a positive note. Perhaps you could comment on
her contribution to the team and the quality of her work, because
she will need to see that you value her as a colleague.

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