8 Tips for managing an employee with poor personal hygiene

April 12, 2024


Although it’s a conversation most people managers hope to never have to have, at one point or another, you’ll likely be faced with handling a situation around an employee’s poor personal hygiene.

Whether it’s because you’ve received a complaint from another member of your team, or you feel like it’s finally time to broach the issue after putting it off for a little while, as an employer, it’s important to deal with the situation as respectfully and professionally as possible.

To help you lead a productive but sensitive discussion to address personal hygiene issues with a team member, here are our eight top tips:

1. Don’t put off the conversation

Yes, it’s going to be an awkward conversation. But that doesn’t mean you should put it off. In fact it’s quite the opposite, as ignoring uncomfortable discussions can often escalate to greater issues in the long run.

In the majority of cases, it’s much more beneficial to discuss the matter sooner rather than later as it could result in the issue being resolved, or any underlying causes coming to light, quicker.

2. Consider the facts

Before the meeting, always consider the facts of the situation so that you’re prepared with what you’re going to say and have a solid reason(s) for why you have had to have this discussion.

For example, how has the matter come to light (did it stem from a colleague complaint that you have to address?), is there a policy you can refer to, or is there a direct impact on the business, such as the need to upkeep a good standard of personal hygiene within food manufacturing?

3. Be aware of any potential sensitivities

You should also consider what you know about the individual and if there are any potential sensitivities to be aware of going into the discussion that could escalate the situation if not approached in the right way.

For example, the employee could be battling some personal issues, be struggling with mental health concerns, or have existing work performance issues.

4. Use non-confrontational terminology

This might sound obvious, but it’s important to address the situation objectively but sensitively, using terminology that is not confrontational. For example, starting the meeting with a phrase such as “This won’t be an easy conversation but it’s one that is important to have…”.

Leading a sensitive, non-judgemental conversation will help the employee feel more comfortable and therefore more likely to have an open, honest chat than if they feel like they’re being judged by their senior.

5. Don’t be afraid to ask prompting questions

If the issue is out of character or has become a recent concern, you might find it beneficial to ask some prompting questions to understand if there is a trigger cause.

For example, you may discover that behind the scenes there’s a relationship breakdown, money concerns, or a mental health impact – which could be overcome with the right support.

6. Offer necessary support

If any underlying triggers that need addressing do come to light, ensure you can signpost them in the right direction. If you have an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), remind them how it can be accessed.

If an underlying issue hasn’t been identified, you may want to ask them outright if they require any kind of support, again, pointing them in the direction of where they can receive help.

7. Adjourn the meeting if required

Remember, you can adjourn at any point if you feel the need to calm the situation down or if you just need a few moments to compose yourself.

It may also be useful to break for a short period to gain some support from a colleague or HR professional before proceeding with the meeting if the employee shares some new information with you that you’re not sure how to deal with.

8. Wrap up the conversation positively

Conclude the conversation by thanking the employee for being open with you and facilitating an uncomfortable conversation in a professional manner.

It might also be helpful to reiterate that you are there for them if there are any issues or concerns that they may need help with in the future.


Having an external HR professional provide you with support for difficult conversations can be a huge relief for many people and HR managers. If you feel like you could benefit from ad-hoc professional support for times like these, speak to one of our friendly HR team members today.


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