In another life, I was a manager at a financial services company responsible for a an entire staff of accountants, data processors, AR/AP clerks and bookkeepers. Technically only the five financial reporting accountants reported directly to me, but as a manager I was responsible for the entire department at times.
One of those times was one of the worst days of my life.
One of the women in the department came into my office one day. She sat down and told me that I had to talk to one of the guys who sat near her. I had to talk to him about his body odor. She said it was so bad that she had a difficult time getting through the day. I told her that I would have a word with him.
But I didn't. Not yet.
Then another person came in with the same story. Then another. Then another. In total, five people came in to tell me about this guy's stench. I guess I had to say something, right?
So I went to our Human Resources Department to talk to our HR Manager. Now, you know how Michael hates Toby on The Office? That's the kind of hate I had for this woman, but even more so. She was useless. She was stupid. She was literally the worst person I have ever met on Earth. She used to go into our Payroll Department and complain to the ladies about her vaginitis. I don't even know what that it, but it sounds pretty bad. Certainly not anything that should be discussed at the workplace.
So, aghast at the possibility that I had to tell this guy that he reeked, I went to this fucking awful person for advice. Maybe she could have a chat with him instead. Hey, that sounds like a great idea! But no. As I said, she was useless. She told me to ask him if he showered in the morning. If he said "yes", then I was supposed to ask him if he used soap.
Really? That's your advice? Crap!
So I put it off as long as I could. I waited until the end of the day and I asked him to stick around for a few minutes after work. Told him that I had a report I needed his help on. Ugh.
So he comes in and I ask him to close the door. I just blurted it out. Told him that I've had a few complaints about his body odor. He was mortified. I mean he was fucking crushed. He asked if it was just one or two people and I had to tell him that it was more than that. He couldn't believe it. Just sat there in stunned silence.
I couldn't believe this was happening. That's when I heard myself ask him if he showered in the morning. Of course he showered in the morning. He sat there with his head in his hands. Totally embarrassed that his co-workers told me he smelled.
Then I asked him if he used soap.
I just wanted to die. I'm sure he would have been happy to join me on that ride. He said he would take care of it and he excused himself. I immediately left and headed to a local pub to try to forget the incident. I never said anything to him again about our meeting, and he never did either.
But about a week later I came into work and there was a card in an envelope on my desk. It was a Thank You card from the five employees who asked me speak with their smelly co-worker. They knew how mortified I was to have to tell this guy that he smelled bad, so they just wanted me to know that he no longer reeked. It didn't make me feel any better. I would have preferred that they just lived with the stench and left me out of it.
I shredded that card right away and tried to put it all behind me. Apparently, I haven't.
What's the worst conversation you ever had with an employee/co-worker? (UPDATE - besides having to fire them, of course. That's always awful - Earl)
Note: Remember to play the Bug-Eyed Trivia Challenge every day. All the smelly kids are doing it.