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Among many unusual traits, Steve Jobs was not a fan of deodorant. According to his biographer Walter Isaacson, when Jobs was at Atari in the 1970s he was deployed alongside an engineer called Don Lang. The next day Mr Lang complained: "This guy's a goddamn hippie with BO. Why did you do this to me?"
Even once he founded Apple, Jobs's un-businesslike habits included going barefoot, showering infrequently and putting his grubby feet on tables in meetings. However, he was also an intimidating genius, which meant what would have been unacceptable in others was tolerated and even celebrated.
But what about ordinary people with objectionable habits? The colleague who leaves their sweaty gym kit on the radiator, or the one with bad breath, or the fan of tuna sandwiches? Last year LinkedIn, the networking site, asked its users what infuriated them most about colleagues. Top peeves among the 17,000 replies included messy desks, smelly lunches eaten at the desk, perfume, general dishevelment, chewing gum and not returning borrowed items.
But telling a colleague or subordinate they annoy the heck out of you - or worse, that their personal hygiene is poor - is generally considered one of the most awkward workplace conversations.
Although the British tend to think they are particularly squeamish about picking a colleague up on personal traits, it would appear that even in countries that pride themselves on plain-speaking, a delicate approach may be adopted. Writing on body odour in The Boston Globe, Peter Post, co-author of The Etiquette Advantage in Business, rehearsed a series of verbal contortions involved in raising the subject (in private, of course): "The conversation can begin like this: 'Jane, I've asked to talk to you because I want to discuss something that's really very awkward, but I know that if the tables were turned...' His list even ends: "Good luck."
Peter English, a management development consultant and author of the Tackling Difficult Conversations Pocketbook, says: "I've never come across an easy way of dealing with this."
But a niggling irritation can fester and take over your working life.
"You have to take action," says business psychologist Beverley Stone. However, she explains that by "taking action" she means making a deliberate choice, not necessarily reading a colleague the riot act: "You need to decide whether you are going to view the situation differently or whether you are going to change it."
One form of action is to ignore the irritation, but that is not the same as doing nothing, says Ms Stone. "By making this choice, you recognise that you are free to do something about the situation and responsible for it. It means you can't blame others for feeling trapped." This is important, she says, because it is the frustration over not being able to do anything about the smelly gym shoes or fish-paste sandwiches that makes something relatively trivial feel overwhelming. It also gives you a chance to ask yourself if you are becoming obsessed with something that does not ultimately matter, she says.
The other course of action is to say something. But there are a number of points to consider. First, while the damp towel or the garlicky soup can be dealt with lightheartedly - once you have stopped grinding your teeth and achieved a lighter timbre to your tone - body odour and bad breath are particularly awkward because hyg¬iene is integral to the person.
"As with any awkward or embarrassing conversation, take the person to one side and have the conversation in private," says etiquette expert William Hanson. Mr English says: "Ex¬plain you're doing it to help and because you care about the person... Bear in mind too that if you had terrible body odour, you would want other people to tell you."
What you should not do is weigh in aggressively or say "other people have commented about your breath too", as this will just humiliate them or make them fear they are being picked on.
Ms Stone says: "Take the line that it's a problem that needs to be solved and that that is all it is. Take a collaborative approach and end sentences with questions such as: 'How do you feel about this?' " This encourages empathy and means the other person cannot just deny your statement.
There are reasons to proceed with caution. There may be an underlying health issue, or other serious problems. Ian Gooden, chief operating officer of HR consultancy Chiumento, says: "I remember talking to someone whose hygiene and appearance had deteriorated very badly. It turned out the person in question was going through a very painful break-up... As a manager, one of the big challenges is reading situations like this sensitively."
The fault may not always lie where you think. Mr Gooden says: "Someone was sniffing all the time. It started to irritate people and eventually someone said something. But it turned out that the sniffer was a lad in an office full of women, many of whom wore really strong perfume, which he was allergic to."
Finally, the "offender" may have no idea they are doing anything wrong or maybe you are being oversensitive yourself. Mr Gooden says it is easy to wonder how the other person cannot realise they are being irritating. "But if you were a vegan upset by your colleague's bacon sandwiches, the person will almost certainly be eating bacon sandwiches because they like bacon and will have no idea that it's upsetting you."
The reason most people worry about confronting colleagues is that they are scared it will go badly - and sometimes it does. "If you get a bad reaction, sit tight for a moment and let it happen," says Mr English. They may need time to go away to reflect.
However, says Mr Gooden, "if it's a problem the person can solve and they refuse to deal with it, it becomes like any other form of misconduct. I've seen cases where the person has been taken quite a way through disciplinary procedures because their behaviour is a risk to the business". Ms Stone adds: "If they say 'tough', at least you tried and you know where you stand. You know they are intransigent and that you may have to make other choices."
What if you are on the receiving end of a chat about poor personal hygiene? Mr Hanson advises: "Bear in mind, they're doing it for your benefit and often they're doing it because they care about you. Remember that outside work, the people who can tell you that you have body odour tend to be your good friends, not people who aren't concerned about you, so try to take it well."
Otherwise, one alternative of course is to bec¬ome a business superstar
so that your unpalatable personal habits are held up as evidence of your genius.