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Survey Results

Need a Tissue? Some Floss? Don’t Rely on Colleagues to Point it Out, Survey Reveals

Yesterday, CareerBuilder released the results of a survey about confronting awkward office situations.  More than 4,400 workers nationwide participated to reveal which embarrassing observations – from an undone zipper to the need for a breath mint – they would be willing to point out to a co-worker of equal, lower or higher status. (Results after the jump.)

It may seem silly, but when you’re in these situations yourself, it doesn’t always feel that way – personal hygiene and appearance are pretty sensitive subjects, and rather than risk awkwardness by trying to save someone from future embarrassment, many of us will do anything we can to avoid it altogether.  Case in point: When I told a friend of mine about this survey, she immediately related:

“We had a guy at my office who smelled,” she said.  The guy’s body odor was so distracting, in fact, that my friend went to HR about it. When HR told her that it was her job to tell the employee, she went to some male co-workers asking them to say something to the guy, but they, too, refused. 

“What did you eventually do?” I asked her.

“Nothing,” she said. “He doesn’t work there anymore.” 

“Oh.” Not the answer I was hoping for.  Awkward silence.

“He wasn’t let go or anything,” she added. “He just left. I forget why.” 

For her, the problem solved itself (sort of), but I still felt bad for the employee she was talking about; however, I don’t know how I would’ve handled the situation myself, and as the survey results indicate, not many others would have handled the situation differently than my friend had:

Only 28 percent of survey respondents revealed that they would tell a co-worker at an equal or lower level that he/she needed a shower; while only 11 percent would do the same for a higher level co-worker.    

On a similar note, I recently came across this post on ERE.net by recruiter Sarah Welstead, who suggests that it’s in recruiters’ best professional interests to give candidates with bad personal hygiene a heads-up. After all, the author reasons, “if we don’t tell them, who will?…These candidates will be unemployed for months.” 

What are your thoughts? Do you agree? Have you ever had to confront a co-worker about bad hygiene, and if so, how did you do it?

Keep reading for full survey results.

CareerBuilder asked over 4,400 workers nationwide, “If given the following embarrassing situations, which of your co-workers would you tell the following?”

“Your zipper is undone.”

  • Same level co-worker – 67 percent
  • Lower level co-worker – 62 percent
  • Higher level co-worker – 50 percent

“You have something in your nose.”

  • Same level co-worker – 51 percent
  • Lower level co-worker – 46 percent
  • Higher level co-worker – 33 percent

“You have food in your teeth or on your face.”

  • Same level co-worker – 66 percent
  • Lower level co-worker – 60 percent
  • Higher level co-worker – 49 percent

“Your hair is messy.”

  • Same level co-worker – 33 percent
  • Lower level co-worker – 30 percent
  • Higher level co-worker – 13 percent

 “You have a stain on your clothes.”

  • Same level co-worker – 51 percent
  • Lower level co-worker – 47 percent
  • Higher level co-worker – 34 percent

“You need a breath mint.”

  • Same level co-worker – 33 percent
  • Lower level co-worker – 29 percent
  • Higher level co-worker – 14 percent

“You need a shower.”

  • Same level co-worker – 28 percent
  • Lower level co-worker – 28 percent
  • Higher level co-worker – 11 percent

“Your apparel is not appropriate for the office.”

  • Same level co-worker – 32 percent
  • Lower level co-worker – 37 percent
  • Higher level co-worker – 10 percent
Mary Lorenz

About Mary Lorenz

Mary is a copywriter for CareerBuilder, specializing in B2B marketing and corporate recruiting best practices and social media. In addition to creating copy for corporate advertising and marketing campaigns, she researches and writes about employee attraction, engagement and retention. Whenever possible, she makes references to pop culture. Sometimes, those references are even relevant. A New Orleans native, Mary now lives in Chicago, right down the street from the best sushi place in the city. It's awesome.
2 comments
Eugenia Kaneshige
Eugenia Kaneshige

I'm a job search coach, and I would love to see the results of a survey asking the same people if they would want someone to tell them if they were the ones with bad breath, unattractive hairstyle, etc. Personally, I would want someone to tell me in any of the situations mentioned, and I usually live by the golden rule. I know, however, that a lot of people do not feel the same way that I do. If I suspect that is the case, then I don't say anything. As a job search coach, however, I believe it's my responsibility to tell my clients about anything that could possibly impair their ability to get a job sooner rather than later. That's what they are paying me to do.

Eugenia Kaneshige
Eugenia Kaneshige

I'm a job search coach, and I would love to see the results of a survey asking the same people if they would want someone to tell them if they were the ones with bad breath, unattractive hairstyle, etc. Personally, I would want someone to tell me in any of the situations mentioned, and I usually live by the golden rule. I know, however, that a lot of people do not feel the same way that I do. If I suspect that is the case, then I don't say anything. As a job search coach, however, I believe it's my responsibility to tell my clients about anything that could possibly impair their ability to get a job sooner rather than later. That's what they are paying me to do.

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