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Dear Workforce How Should I Approach a Health Products Salesperson Who Reeks of Cigarette Smoke?

Dear Drag:

The primary issue here is impact, which is the impression–positive or negative–that a person makes on others through their appearance, speech, and myriad other tangible and intangible factors. In some jobs, such as face-to-face sales or service positions, impact can be very important and should be defined through position descriptions, company policies, and performance expectations. A person who falls below the standards an organization sets for impact is exhibiting a performance or work habit problem, and the person’s manager is responsible for discussing the issue with the person and coaching for improvement.

As with all performance or work-habit problems, it’s important to focus on the issue and not the person. In this case that probably means focusing on the need to eliminate or avoid the smell of cigarette smoke when calling on clients. (It’s not clear if the person is a smoker or might be picking the odor from second-hand smoke.) If handled correctly, the sales person will appreciate the coaching, since it’s likely to help boost sales performance.

One way to avoid having to deal with problems related to poor impact is to make it part of your selection or hiring process. With the appropriate job or role analysis, impact can be defined as a competency and be part of a selection system. Key actions for impact include dressing appropriately, displaying a professional demeanor, and speaking confidently. By interviewing for impact in the selection process, you can avoid hiring people who might have a negative impact on clients. Or, at the very least know that you’ll need to coach the person on how to make a positive impact.

SOURCE: Jim Concelman, Leadership Development Product Manager,Development Dimensions International, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Dec. 10, 2002

The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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