Strong business leaders keep their eyes open for unintended consequences—if our company adopts a new program, what could happen (positive or negative) that was not intended as part of our efforts?

Employers are seeing unintended consequences play out in their efforts to eliminate harassment in the #MeToo era–as employers have acted to train and educate their workforce, some males are developing concerns about engaging in mentoring relationships with female employees. Companies are losing the benefit of employees sharing valuable experiences and lessons be-cause communications are stifled. But, mentoring is as important today as ever—for both males and females. Just think about the many mentors (including of the opposite sex) who have helped you along the way.

While remaining sensitive to harassment issues, employers must challenge employees’ tendencies to simply retreat. Educate employees about the importance of mentoring relationships and appropriate boundaries. Here are a few common-sense tips for mentoring relationships:

  • Meet in public places. This may include the corner coffee shop or a windowed conference room at the office. Be transparent about where the meetings occur.
  • Meet at a respectable hour. Have you heard the saying, “Nothing good ever happens after 12:00 am?” Similarly, a good rule for men-tors/mentees is to avoid meeting one-on-one at night. Try to schedule meetings in the morning or during work hours. Only rarely schedule a meeting for after work and, if it is necessary, immediately after work.
  • Focus on work issues. What are the mentee’s goals? What obstacles is the mentee currently facing in the workplace?
  • Again, focus on work issues. As a mentor, be very careful not to discuss physical appearance or family responsibilities. Remember, the value in mentoring comes from the ability to learn and grow from what is happening at work, not at home. Leave broader life coaching to life coaches.

Mentoring is admittedly tricky. A mentor is not a supervisor and is not conducting an appraisal. Discussions are more wide-ranging than when a manager is completing a performance evaluation. Yet, mentoring is critical to developing your workforce.