How do you tell your colleague he smell

July 18, 2021

The most difficult communication is informing a coworker that his B.O., or Body Odour, is upsetting the entire department. I’ve been putting up with his foul odour, and a couple of my coworkers have as well, but someone has to tell him, even if it’s an awkward talk. What do you say to him, though? I employ a combination of initiating and supportive communication methods.

It began a few months ago when the company hired a new employee, KK. KK. came in after an online interview. He appeared to be a pleasant individual who always smiled. He appeared personable, with a variety of interesting pastimes, such as basketball.

Until the first time we met in person, I realized something wasn’t quite right. K.K.’s body perfume or smell was not working. I planned a welcome meal for him so that everyone in the department could get to know him. We immediately noticed a foul odour as soon as he came. It had a horrible fish odour to it. I initially assumed it was due to the air conditioning, so we simply began eating our team lunch.

The odour appears to get stronger and worse as time goes on. Cherry, another colleague, was seated next to me. “Hey Victor, can you smell that as well?” she texted me after she sent me a confidential WhatsApp message. OMG”. I read the message, then turned to face her; she returned my gaze, and we both chuckled.

Then K.K. arrived at the same table and said, “What is so funny?” “Could you tell me the joke as well?” “No,” Cherry responded to him. Nothing. “There was no action.” And then the conversation came to a halt. Everyone else began to laugh as well, isolating him, but K.K. appeared bewildered. “Could someone share the humour with me?” he inquired. There was additional laughter after K.K.’s remark. I realized I had to take action.

What would you do if you were in this situation? Direct, initiating, supportive, and analytical communication styles are the four types. Assume you’re like my friend, who thrives on instant response. “Hey K.K., you have a terrible body odour,” you might say directly to his face. “Are you able to shower more frequently?” It could be the most efficient and effective strategy. And it works because we’re familiar with his personality, but K.K. might be offended.

I would avoid confrontation and would never say something like this. I’d be concerned about K.K.’s fate. K.K. may believe we adore his K.K. fragrance. He may even be required to report to Human Resources. K.K. may not be insulted if you employ an analytical communication style and go around the bush, but he may not comprehend your point. He might not take any action, and, as a result, the situation will remain unsolved.

Instead, I employ proactive and helpful communication strategies. First, I need to arrange a convenient time for a one-on-one conversation with K.K. We need to create a safe environment in which K.K. feels comfortable expressing himself.

Second, regardless of your communication style, it is critical to frame the appropriate approach to express sincerity. “K.K., I’m attempting to correct the problem, and this is not an acquisition,” I need to be clear. I’m attempting to assist him with the finest of intentions.

Third, I explain the situation to him politely and use questions to elicit his thoughts. “Is this something you’re aware of, K.K.?” Is there any medical reasoning for body odour? Is there anything we can do to assist you with your hygiene?” Allow him to communicate his worries and make his own decisions.

This kind of communication was effective. K.K. was not offended in the least. “Thank you for your critical input,” he said a few days later, “and I visited the doctor.” And my coworkers were relieved because the foul odour was no longer an issue. I exemplified the leading and following communication styles.

In life, we must employ many styles in various situations. Remember, we can’t force someone to change if they don’t want to. It’s all about how you communicate. I could help people and make a difference in the circumstance if I chose the correct tone.


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Experience in software development, application architecture, and deploying cloud solutions for enterprise customers. Strong hands-on skills with a Master's degree in Computer Science and business acumen with a master of business administration (MBA) in Finance. Certified in Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform (GCP), Microsoft Azure, Kubernetes (CKA, CKAD, CKS, KCNA) and Scrum (PSM, PSPO) with experience in building banking products from scratch. Connect on Linkedin

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