Should I Tell My Colleague About His Body Odor?

Hello Amit,

Thanks for sending regular emails on the HR subject and enlightening me like always.

I am sharing with you a problem, however I do not know how to convey it to the person concerned.

Please help. I have a colleague of mine in our team with a very strong body odor. He has a great sense of style and dressing. By just looking at him you can’t even make out that he will not be conscious of his body odor. He is well qualified but seriously I would not want to be even in the same room when we are told to work together. How should I tell him so that I am not going to hurt his male ego?




I have always believed and experienced one thing in life.

People will accept and appreciate your inputs, if they feel that your feedback is for their own good and that you truly care for them.

You ought to sound “GENUINE” so that things work on the positive side.

I think your colleague is not ignorant on his body odour, it’s just that he himself might not know about it.

What I can make out from your mail is that you really want to help him so I see no way of you hurting his male ego.

Communicating effectively is a vital point here. 

According to me there can be 2 approaches here.

personl hygiene

You can go up to him and can tell “My dear friend you stink. Use a deo or people might stop talking to you. 


You you may suggest him that “My dear friend, as I am working with you for sometime now, I am a bit concerned and would like to suggest you to use a deodorant for hygiene and personal health. My intentions are to help you as I think this will help you in your career and would also increase your efficiency at workplace. Hope you don’t mind on my inputs as I see this will help you in the long term

Which approach you think will be more effective?

Second one….RIGHT?

On the first go it may come as a surprise to him, as there are some people for whom personal hygiene doesn’t matter that much. There are people who make it to adulthood without understanding which parts of their bodies need a good soaping regularly. Even though there are quite a number of deodorants in the market these days ranging from strong to mild (depending upon your stink capacity, people however ignore this basic hygiene aspect and consider it a bad investment.

So if your colleague is one of those guys, on the cheaper side ask him to wash his clothes regularly. So, if you guys share a good rapport, you need to explain to him in a polite manner that this may prove bad for his career. A bit of soap, some deodorant and laundry detergent would help him resolve this issue.

Further, if this thing is pointed out by a senior person, it could result in embarrassment for him. Make him understand that your discussion around this topic is for his own benefit and not that you would like to insult him. Your sense of genuineness will play a big role in this communication. I know being a female it would be challenging to convey such a thing but you never know your help may shape his career in the long run.

Further, I would ask you to suggest him to see a doctor as his stinking thing can be based on some medical problem, hence recommend him to bring it up as soon as this problem doesn’t become obvious to all. Secondly, if you feel that you would not be able to deal with it address it to your HR as a hygiene issue and let them take it up with him.

What do you think on my approach on this subject? These things sometimes becomes sensitive if taken wrongly by an individual. Let me have your views on this………please reply in the comments section below.

  • Jyoti Anand says:

    I do not know if any female colleague tells to her male colleague that his body stinks, how would he take it.
    For sure he will have a BIG ego problem with you. And i am sure this guy is aware of his body odor. But he might be trying hard but not being able to control his bodily function.

    From your writing, i feel that you are not that close enough to discuss this issue with him personally.

    In that case i feel you can send him links of websites explaining ways to handle body odor and other cosmetics available in the market through a unknown email id.

    I am sure he realizes what people might be thinking of his odor and will definitely tries to stink less.

    Good luck

  • Uray Ali says:

    Because he will be always work with us, we have to tell him : ” My friend I’ve just arrived from Singapore already and something will give to you a small size of “X” brand of perfume. It may be you liked to.”

  • Prerna says:

    Embarrassing huh!! Get the confidence of your HR dept. and arrange to send him for a training program covering hygiene factors. There are a lot of one – day programs on this topic; you can get him registered there. The HR can support by saying that ‘its one of a kind program and a must attend by every employee…’ (Leave this to HR, am sure they are best at this ) These programs do help and it’s better than getting in an awkward situation with him in the long –run by discussing your self.

  • Helena Jackson says:


    Well in such a case you might first need to adopt an empathetic attitude towards your colleague if you wish to sustain your relationship and rapport with your colleague and take him to a quiet place to initiate the discussion. Let him know that your pointing it out to be helpful. A phrase like, “I’m telling you because it’s important for you to know”, or I’m sure you’re not aware of it but thought you’d like to know that I’m noticing an odd odor” might be effective and less offensive. Usually when confronted with a difficult personal issue people tend to react instead of responding with denial, defense or deflection. A follow discussion then might also help.



  • Godfrey Odeke says:

    Different people smell body odors differently, while it’s bad for you some one else may have no problem with it, however there others which are too odd to every body.

    I suggest this may work, you buy a perfume of your choice, present to him like a gift in privacy, you propose/request him to use it frequently, and then you tell him that you are not comfortable with the perfume in his body and you believe there may be many others that are affected by it. You further let him know that you were concerned, that is why you brought to his attention so that he finds solution to it, and so that he avoids many others realize his problem.

  • Mark Hernandez says:

    If we are truly concerned about the person’s hygiene, we must inform the person about it in a subtle way. We may express that they might feel bad about it but we counter it with we are concerned on how it may affect him with his deliverables and inter-personal relationship in the workplace.

  • Clarisa Esther says:

    Use one of his closest friends to tell him, Sometimes we feel that if we told people about a problem they get offended but that depends on the individual, eventually they learn to appreciate and may turn out to be good friends .

    If you decide to tell him, then find the best alternative way of saying it to him.


  • John Kennedy says:

    Hi Jessica, I think you are really concerned about it. Of course if I were in your place I would surely be concerned about it. Actually you can tell him about it but make sure that you tell him at the right time and right place. Tell him privately and not in public. Don’t start saying it straight away as soon as you meet him. First start with may be your own life incident as to how you started to take care of your hygiene or sharing about your friends etc. and then come to his problem. Don’t concentrate on the negative side of his body ordour but the positive side/helps for him and others of having good health hygiene. Surely he knows it but is not aware of its implications and ill-effect on his colleagues. You will be doing a great service to all your colleagues and much more to the person concerned. Many also may be having same problem with it but not expressing it as you have done it. You are concerned about not only his hygiene but also his reputation and health. I think you should tell him but in a gentle way. It is better to tell the person concerned than to gossip about it with others. I am sure he will take it positively because you are concerned about his health, career and future. And above all you are trying to create a hygienic environment and culture. Go ahead. All the best. Thanks for sharing this with us.

  • Connie Richards says:

    HI John, I agree with you. Speak to him privately about his hygiene but not in a way to make him feel offended.

  • Charity Nma Ananaba says:

    Yes, you should privately and politely make him/her know the importance of personal hygiene. In so doing you are helping him/her to avoid future embarrassment from people who may not be as patient as you.

  • >