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When employees fight, dig to determine the core issue

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in Workplace Communication,Workplace Conflict

Say you hire a solid worker with good credentials. After six months, his female coworkers start telling you, "I can't work with this guy."

They tell you that he makes them uncomfortable and they avoid him. It reaches a point where they will flee an elevator if he gets on, even if they're on the wrong floor.

Your female employees insist he doesn't say or do anything that's clearly inappropriate. But his mere presence makes them uneasy.

When we asked management experts for advice, their feedback consisted of the three C's:

Caution. Do not rush to take sides. If your new hire's job performance meets or exceeds your standards and no one complains of a specific inappropriate behavior (such as sexual harassment or using threatening language), then withhold judgment as you gather more information from all parties and observe the interaction among your team more closely.

Communication. The women may feel antsy because of cultural differences or simple misunderstanding. Give everyone a chance to level with each other in a supportive environment by inviting them to a closed-door meeting. Ask an H.R. rep to facilitate. Give the new hire a chance to share his impressions of the workplace; you may find his attitudes, assumptions or life experience differ dramatically from your female employees.

Collaboration. Create a team project in which the women must work alongside the man to achieve a collective goal. Take an active role in helping the group gel and guiding it through rough patches. If you detect aspects of his behavior that need improvement, coach him privately.

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