Odor poisoning morale
Dear Annie: I am trying to handle a delicate situation at the office. A man I work with has very poor hygiene and is an all-around slob. The guy has no respect for anyone, including himself. He often comes to work without combing his hair, and many times he smells as though he hasn’t showered in days. He has some other unclean habits at the office that are too disgusting to mention here. I could go on, but you can see the picture.
The company has warned him many times but he’s not been fired. When I confronted this employee, he threatened me with a lawsuit, as well as our employer. I love my job, and the boss is a good, kind boss.
I am pretty sure there are depression issues. His wife even called to say he went off his medication recently. She’s trying to get him back on it. In the meantime, what can I do? — P.U.
Dear P.U.: Your co-worker’s poor hygiene presents a serious problem in itself, but it’s his foul attitude that’s truly toxic. His unwillingness to change and his explosive temper are not winning traits for an employee. If his noxious attitude is allowed to linger, it will poison morale throughout the office.
It sounds as though your boss’s kindness is getting in the way of effective management, because this has already gone way farther than it should have. Talk to him and the human resources manager, if your company has one, about the impact this issue is having on you. Explain that it’s making it difficult to do your job. Take note of every offense going forward (without letting the co-worker know you’re doing so) to document the pattern. Don’t confront him about the issue yourself, as he’s likely to lash out again. And while it’s very possible his behavior is connected to mental health issues, refrain from speaking to him about that. His hygiene or lack thereof at the office is, unfortunately, everyone’s business, but his mental health is not.
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