Horrific Feminine Odor!!!
I work in a healthcare facility in a non-patient care area. We do, however, provide customer service to physicians and outside personnel. A new person was hired 4 months ago, and I have been suffering since that time with her horrific feminine odor problem. She is extremely obese which may add to the problem. Many employees have spoken to our supervisor who was contemplating how to deal with this difficult to approach employee. Before he could do so, some awful person told this employee about our complaint, and now she is very angry, but still very smelly. Now she won't speak to us, and her smell is so foul that I truly cannot stand to be in the office with her or even long after she has left. What can we do now?
Canít Hold My Nose
Dear Canít Hold My Nose:
We receive many such questions. The problem is real and adversely affects both those in your work area and those who enter. Since someone told this individual of many complaints, the corrective process has begun. Of course to be the object of such gossip is damaging to self-esteem, and anger at those who were talking about complaining is her way of putting salve on this hurt. Your supervisor or Human Resource manager should act quickly, firmly, and empathically. How?
∑ In private, ask the woman if she is aware of her body odor problem and if so what she does to prevent the problem. Since this is a problem encountered by co-workers, it might help to bring in a mature employee to this meeting as additional support to make clear how serious is the problem.
∑ Firmly, but kindly, state that complaints make it clear that it is unpleasant to work near her and what she has been doing for body hygiene is not working.
∑ State that steps must be taken to resolve the problem--specify ways to cleanse all body areas, use of deodorant/antiperspirant, and avoidance of foods that cause gas and odor of breath and body. Care should be taken to avoid excessive use of perfumes as a cover. They too can annoy and cause allergic reactions. A plan should be spelled out in writing.
∑ Schedule a time to monitor if corrective action is working--daily at first, then weekly if it seems to be working. Arranging for nose-inspection can be embarrassing, but should not be avoided. If the BO problem is not corrected, the supervisor must decide if requiring medical assistance, suspension, or discharge is the answer. Whatever is the plan, it should not be allowed to drag on.
If this individual were assigned to enlisting customers/new clients, no employer would risk keeping her on. Employers should have heart, but they cannot afford turning away customers. Neither should employers tolerate their employees working together in physically unpleasant conditions. This is a special challenge for a health care facility, and every possible effort must be make to prevent and correct unpleasant odors in the attendants and patients' environment.
Our recently posted questions titled Body Order Blues and Body Order Blues II and Q&A Archive provide additional suggestions. Tina Lewis Rowe, one of our Workplace Doctors has prepared Hygiene Guidelines that are attached. Supervisors can provide copies to employees, and in cases such as yours items that are appropriate to this particular cases may be highlighted.
Will you get back to us about what is has been done and how this problem is resolved? It must be. And if it is, but returns, it has to be confronted again. Working closely together means dealing honestly and forthrightly with unpleasantness, whether emotional or physical. When that is the way problems are handled, the spirit of WEGO emerges.
The situation has worked itself out: the employee did not "fit in" in many ways and finally decided to leave. Prior to that, she did attempt to lodge a complaint with our HR department: however, they agreed that she truly had no grounds for the complaint and were still in the process of determining how to go forward with dealing with the "issue" at hand.
Thank you for your feedback, it was very helpful.