Take a Shower, Please

I was talking with a new manager recently, and she was explaining what she had to tell a new employee (a co-op, but an employee). “I told him he had to be here by 9am every day he works. He can eat lunch from 12 to 1, and then he should be back at his desk. I then told him if he ran out of work, he should talk to me, and that he could leave between 5:30 and 6:00.”

We were chuckling, and I told her the story of one of the first co-ops I hired. I had to tell him to brush his teeth, take a shower every day, wear different clothes every day, and make sure to use deodorant. After he got into the rhythm of work, about a month later, he thanked me. I was curious, and asked why he’d been so unaware all these years before this job. He said, “Well, I was smart enough to coast by on my brains. But all the work I did, I did from my room. I never had to see anyone or work with anyone before. This is a huge difference for me. And, my social life is improving!”

I’ve had a number of funny-strange conversations, and many of them are about feedback. If you have to give someone feedback about body odor or halitosis, remember how:

  • Create an opening to deliver feedback.
  • Describe the behavior or result in a way the person can hear.
  • State the impact using “I” language.
  • Make a request for changed behavior.

Take a look at With Feedback, It’s Kind to be Firm for an example. As long as we have geeky people in high tech, managers will have to have these conversations. Make them helpful conversations, and you’ll have an employee that’s loyal to you forever.

5 Comments

  1. Also managers would do well to remember that different cultures do things differently. In some countries, bathing isn’t necessarily a daily occurrence, and that difference can be off-putting to those who are used to freshly-bathed employees every day.

    Reply
  2. “I told him he had to be here by 9am every day he works.”

    Your friend just halved the number of good engineers who would work there.

    Reply
  3. Co-ops are from a different place. Express expectations and assume nothing – that is far more difficult than it sounds.

    For example:
    [1] You need to have your own transportation to and from work (we cannot give you a ride)
    [2] No alcohol between 9AM and 6PM.
    [3] No illegal drugs in the office
    [4] No vulgar language (be prepared to give examples)
    [5] No prono on computers at work (be prepared to give examples)

    I have seen all of the need to explain all of the above.

    Reply
  4. I must have typed my comment when too tired.

    [5] No porno on computers at work (be prepared to give examples)

    and

    I have seen all of these examples on the job.

    Reply
  5. Joe, It’s entirely possible that some people won’t work at 9am. But some people do. It’s all about knowing what’s expected.

    Reply

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