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Allegations of sexual misconduct and predatory behavior in the workplace are prompting lawsuits against employers and dismissals of those accused of wrongdoing. The fallout from the scandals may cause men to refrain from serving as mentors to avoid any hint of impropriety with a female colleague.This backlash—what
The New York Times called "unintended consequences"—can, in fact, hurt women's career advancement.
1. Trade Chivalry for Common Courtesy
"For women to advance in the workplace,
it's absolutely critical that men serve as allies," said David Tessmann-Keys, president of global leadership company Development Dimensions International Inc. (DDI) in Pittsburgh. He is executive sponsor for DDI's
"Men as Allies" program.
"Unfortunately, many male leaders may be reluctant to serve as mentors to women for fear that their actions may be misinterpreted. But the solution is not to avoid mentoring women, which will only lead to a bigger gender gap in leadership."He suggested:
2. Focus on Competencies
The rules for mentoring remain the same whether it's a woman mentoring a man or a man mentoring a woman, said Nancy Mellard, national leader of CBIZ Women's Advantage, a management consulting firm in Cleveland."Ask first: What is the mentor/mentee's motivation and intent for entering into this relationship?" she said. The focus should be on developing competencies, not the attractiveness of either party, she added. "If we can understand and clearly define the intent of the relationship, then I don't think separate ground rules or boundaries need to be made."Stacey Browning, president at Paycor, a Cincinnati-based human capital management company, also advised focusing on the work."When mentoring, whether praising or giving constructive feedback to the opposite sex, be sure to focus on skills, talents and competencies."
3. Show Respect, Use Wisdom
"The name of the game is respect. Treat [a female colleague] as you would any other colleague," said Pamela Shand, CEO of OfferStage Consulting in New York City. Here are her guidelines:
5. 'Be a Decent Human Being'
6. Honor Personal Space
7. Create A 'Culture of Voice'
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