“A Sticky Situation–Part 2”

“A Sticky Situation–Part 2”


"Open drawerWell, we suspected, but we just had to know for sure. Look, Joyce, she's using Vagisil–you know that anti-itch ointment–and she's not washing her hands after! God, it's so gross!"

All the others squealed their "yeichs," "auughs," and "blechs" in unison.

"That's enough. I appreciate your informing me, and I'll take care of it. Don't do any more filing until I get the janitorial crew to disinfect the cabinets. Work on your processing jobs instead. Say nothing to Hilda."

Before Joyce could do anything, she needed to verify the facts. The tough part was doing so without obviously intruding on Hilda's privacy. Joyce walked over to Hilda's desk.

"Good morning, Hilda."

"Hi, Joyce."

"Say, Hilda, I seem to be out of aspirin. Would you happen to have one?"

"Sure," Hilda responded, opening her right-hand desk drawer, revealing the Vagisil nestled next to the cough drops.

Hilda fingered through the drawer and located the bottle. When she started to open it to pull out a couple of aspirin, Joyce pointed to the tube in the drawer and asked, "Gee, what's that, Hilda?"

"It's . . . uhm . . . sorta like a cream," Hilda answered as her face reddened slightly.

"Oh, you mean for dry skin?"

"Not exactly," Hilda hesitated, "it's for itching. I've been itching something terrible the past week."

"Could you excuse me, Hilda, I just remembered something?"

"Don't you want your aspirin?"

"Oh, yes, thank you."

Joyce ran to her office, pitched the aspirin like they contained demons, and dashed for the restroom to wash her hands. Then she called human resources for help on how to handle the situation. They advised her to explain the health hazards to Hilda and send her to Medical for counseling by the nurse.

So, before sending her down to the nurse, Joyce asked Hilda to come to her office. "Hilda, have you been applying your Vagisil at your work station?"

"Yes, Joyce, but I'm careful. No one can see what I'm doing. I just hate to miss any time from my job. The ladies' room is all the way down the hall. It seems so far to go. I don't want to miss time."

"Poor Hilda," Joyce thought, "always the dedicated employee." Then she said aloud, "Hilda I'm going to send you to the nurse. She may be able to refer you to a doctor who can help you with your problem. In the meantime I don't want you to apply the ointment at your desk. And you must wash your hands afterward. What you're doing is presenting a health hazard to the other employees. Do you understand?"

"What if I get some paper towels to keep in my drawer."

"No, Hilda, that's not acceptable," Joyce said firmly.

"I just don't want to lose time," Hilda fretted.

"It will be okay," Joyce tried to assure her.

"How about those Wash'n Dri towelettes? I could use those," Martha offered.

"No, Hilda, it's not sanitary. You must go to the restroom each time and wash your hands with soap and water. Now, if you'll please speak to the nurse, she may be able to send you to a doctor who can help solve your problem once and for all."

Joyce watched Hilda walked off dejectedly. Poor Hilda, she just hated having to miss . . . .


Personal hygiene is one of the most difficult subjects for a supervisor to handle, because it is so personal. Human Resources advised Joyce correctly. The immediate supervisor, not human resourcesl, should deliver the bad news. This situation is tough enough without further humiliating the employee by sending him or her to human resources to have a relative stranger deal with this unpleasant task. However, Joyce should call the nurse and advise her of the circumstances before Hilda talks with her. By providing the nurse with some context, she will be in the best position to assist Hilda.


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Excerpted from Outrageous Conduct: Bizarre Behavior at Work©

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