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Offensive On Multiple Levels

, , , , , , | Working | December 14, 2021

In my first week as a manager, I get a complaint about one of the contractors working for me. Apparently, he smells like he hasn’t washed in weeks. Other comments have been made about his lack of handwashing and overuse of deodorant spray.

I think long and hard about how to approach it. It’s not an easy subject; I don’t know what cultural or personal issues I might be stepping on. Eventually, I decide on an honest but fair approach. I get him in first thing Monday morning and check that he is okay and understands why I asked him here.

Me: “The bottom line is that you need to wash daily and apply some sort of antiperspirant or deodorant that works for you and everyone around you.”

Worker: “I do!”

Me: “Honestly, you’ve been here for thirty minutes and I can smell that’s not the case. I need you to make this change or we are going to have to lose you.”

He folds his arms in defiance.

Me: “Listen, we can deal with it here or we will have to escalate it. But it needs to be dealt with now.”

Worker: “Are we finished?”

Me: “Yes, you can go.”

I was being kind when I said I could tell he hadn’t washed. My office stank of body odor and I could see his clothes were dirty from the week before. Being a contractor, he was getting paid more than I was. We even have showers on-site! I decide to call the agency we use to manage him. I explained why we spoke and that I expected them to follow up and have the matter sorted within the week.

A week later, I got the same complaints. I invited him to a meeting with me and a representative from the agency. He didn’t show up that day. I rescheduled and he called off sick.

We fired him on the spot; being agency work, there is no notice period and no pay other than the hours he worked.

He claimed unfair dismissal (doesn’t exist for contractors), claimed I made things up (everything was documented), and claimed racial discrimination (no evidence was given, as there wasn’t any).

He then tried to apply directly for his old position. Of course, that didn’t work. His last act of defiance was to write me a list of accusations and vague threats. After he showed it to his agency, they fired him, too.

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