Nobody ever wants to tell someone they smell. Yet, the other day at work, Leya, my trusty intern, ran into a stinky situation.
One of her reception staff had come to her part-time workplace smelling strongly of… body odor. Yep… BO! Some of the other staff were already whispering behind his back and keeping their distance. She could see the rumour mill crank into motion. She knew she had to do something fast.
How to tell someone they smell?
- What if they hate you afterwards? Because they will likely feel embarrassed and uncomfortable and won’t like you for it.
- What if it’s awkward? Of course it will be. But this is too important to ignore.
- What if they talk about how outrageous you were behind your back? It’s more important to be respected than liked as a leader.
It would be easier to just do nothing. But doing nothing also has consequences.
- For the smelly staff member who doesn’t know why people are keeping their distance. You’ll have solved their problem for them.
- For the other staff working with him. You’ll have solved their problem for them too.
- For potential customers or clients coming through the door. They will want to stay rather than walk away.
Leya pulled the stinky staff member aside, and said:
Can I speak to you privately for 2 minutes? I’m sure this will be uncomfortable for you as it is for me, but mostly for you. I need to tell you that you have an odor.
He went bright red and said:
Oh my gosh, do I?
Yes. I’m telling you because if it was me, I’d want you to tell me. Can I make a suggestion? Why not see if any of the male staff members have any deodorant. Or if you’re uncomfortable with asking, you could go to the bathroom and wash off a bit. I will cover reception while you do that.
And off he went.
Awkward conversations are best done fast, like ripping off a band-aid. Will they make you popular? Absolutely not. Are they necessary? Absolutely. So, stop looking for the perfect moment to name the elephant in the room.
Instead, work out your version of Leya’s script for how to tell someone they smell and other awkward situations.
Here are some clues:
- Notice she pulled him aside.
- Notice she’s his boss.
- Notice she pointed out why she’d want someone to do that for her.
- Notice she was respectful and offered helpful suggestions.
- Notice she’d even cover for him while he got it sorted.
- Notice how quickly she did it. Keep the conversation short and to the point!
Now you know what to do, it’s time to address your awkward situation.
It’s time to Just Do It!
Photo credit: Alexander Suhorucov