I’ve just hired my first salesperson and, to be honest, he stinks. How can I raise this issue without devastating him?
Ouch. I can sympathise with you as I had the same issue in my company a few years ago and agonised for weeks about how to handle such a sensitive situation.
Before you tackle this issue, you need to ensure you have gathered any relevant facts.
Fact gathering includes – have other employees in the office complained about it?
Have any of your clients mentioned anything? Are there particular times of the day that it seems to be worse? Has he been to gym and not showered?
Touchy areas could be health or medical issues, cultural diversity or dietary problems. You need to be very careful that you are not discriminating against him.
Any conversations you have with other employees regarding the issue need to be done behind closed doors and in the strictest of confidence.
Keep your own personal sensitivities or emotions to the smell out of it. Your only focus needs to be the impact it potentially has on your business.
Once you have gathered any available information, it’s time to have that critical conversation.
Suggestions would be to begin the conversation with positive reinforcement like “I am really pleased with how you are going but I would like to talk with you about a concern I have with your personal scent (sounds better than smell or stink) and the impact it could have on the business.”
Get ready to handle a range of emotional reactions including surprise, anger, anxiety and embarrassment.
Reinforce that you don’t want to offend them and that you know it is a delicate situation but as his role involves dealing with external clients you would like to know if there is an issue that you should know about.
This should open up the door for an honest discussion about the situation.
It’s a tough gig but at the end of the day you need to protect your business.