Being the Boss can be an ugly and thankless role sometimes! Hard and awkward discussions unfortunately are just part of the job and the buck has to stop somewhere.
One of the more sensitive situations you may find yourself in is having to confront that staff member who has the misfortune to have, or lack insight into, a problem with personal hygiene or wearing inappropriate or unduly revealing apparel (perhaps deliberately) at work.
Over the years I have seen some amazing (not so subtle) attempts at making those people have an awareness they have a problem…bottles of Listerine, peppermints, and body deodorant being gift wrapped and left on desks, face masks being worn in meetings, pegs on noses, air freshener being sprayed in the tea room and even a coat being given to the person with the plunging neckline at work (and actually the person in this instance was a male)!
When all else fails and the person still doesn’t get it, clearly as the Boss, Manager or Supervisor you have to front up to it whilst in the background you can probably hear a collective holding of breath (no pun intended) whilst others wait anxiously to see what happens.
Clearly how you approach this will depend on the type business and industry you are in…if it is a labour related business this approach will be different to a professional office environment where employees work at close quarters. Indeed in the former case it maybe that you decide it’s not a significant issue and tell those who complain to ‘suck it up.’ In the latter however you will have to address in a discrete but reasonably direct and honest way.
Having some clear and unambiguous guidelines in place governing dress standards and personal hygiene and an engagement with new hires at the outset of employment is the best way to deal with this…then there is no room for people not knowing. Better still get your employees to design their own…they will usually be harder on themselves than you would be and there will be better ownership and self management of these sorts of issues at peer level (nothing like outsourcing the issue). There is nothing discriminatory in laying down these guidelines that we have come across unless some of those guidelines are too puritanical and interpreted as sexist, religious or ethnically constraining.
Some of you may have other ways of dealing with this sort of issue and we would love to stimulate the conversation and learn from your experiences.
By Paul Bell