Man showing a sweaty and stinky underarm

Feedback Unscripted 8 of 9

In honor of our Learning Cycle Topic of Giving Effective Feedback, my friend and colleague, Angela Fucci, agreed to spend some time on zoom with me role-playing “good” and “bad” attempts at handling a variety of common feedback situations. We laughed, stumbling through some of the awkward conversations, and then discussed our key take-aways.

Feedback on Body Odor

It can be very difficult to give feedback to an employee on body odor, bad breath, or other personal issues that might be embarrassing to them. The inclination is to not bring it up, but that’s not in their best interest. If they don’t ever find out, they may face social repercussions and not understand why.

Here are some tips on discussing personal hygiene with an employee:


1. DON’T cop out by telling them others have noticed. This will just embarrass them more. Also, be careful of letting your own opinions and values about what personal hygiene should be seep into the conversation. The more judgmental you come across, the more humiliated they will be.

2. DO normalize the situation. Let them know they are not alone, and that nobody really knows how others sense or perceive them. The point of giving this feedback is nearly always to give them the information that others might notice or perceive these things and if they do it might affect their working relationships in subtle ways.

3. REMEMBER to be clear on whether you are giving the feedback just so they know and can make adjustments if it matters to them, or because there is a clear standard, value, or policy that requires them to change. For example, if they interact with customers and it’s possible the customers might perceive it as a lack of cleanliness, this is much more serious than if the interactions are only internal.

In the video below, Angela and I role play a situation where a manager gives an employee feedback on body odor. We compare a “bad” version to a “better” version and then summarize our key take aways. The video runs approximately 6 minutes. Enjoy!



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