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We have a new programmer starting on Monday (yay!). Both HR and the MD have raised concerns that he came off in the interview as both sensitive and very blunt.

We have a young office and most people get on well. There is a fair amount of mucking about and mild teasing (banter)

How do I mitigate any potential problems? Obviously I could tell my colleagues he is sensitive and not to include him in this banter but that cold just serve to single him out and make it hard for him to integrate.

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    Define "sensitive". – yannis May 20 '12 at 10:14
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    It sounds like you should leave them out of the banter until such time they join in on the banter. If they never join in the banter, they either are against said behavior ( this is no guarantee what you say to everyone else won't offend them ), much better then offending them the first day though. – Donald May 21 '12 at 11:34
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    It's not clear what you mean by 'sensitive and very blunt', and even less clear is what you see as the 'potential problems'. As stated its not a very good question. – Jim In Texas May 21 '12 at 15:01
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    Shouldn't you wait until there are actual problems and behaviors to ask about specifically? Asking how to deal with "sensitive and blunt" without any actual incidents or details will leave people only guessing how to help you deal with this as-yet unmet person. – Robert Cartaino May 21 '12 at 16:58
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I would suggest that no new team member should automatically be the target of banter.

I am all for team banter. I'm probably the worst on my team for starting it but, when someone new comes in, I leave them out of it for a while. Let them get to know me first and decide if they want to be part of the banter second. They'll join in, if they're comfortable with it.

And when you do include them, keep it non-personal, unless they make it personal.

If there's any doubt in your mind that they're comfortable with a given situation, either don't do it or have a quiet word, make sure they understand that there is no ill intent.

Is there a risk of them feeling left out at first? I don't think so. Like I say, if they're comfortable with the banter, they'll join in pretty quickly. You can improve the situation by making good eye-contact when the rest of you are bantering, include them in the joke without making them the butt of it.

What will make them feel like outsiders is if they feel bullied by a team of people who know each other much better than the new teammate does.

Regardless of how sensitive an individual is, remember: You're all in your comfort zone, the new teammate isn't.

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    The one other thing I would add is, if they come to you or other team members and ask you to stop - stop right then and there, and start a dialog with them. Encourage them to build their confidence, and join in with the team, but don't use their request to stop as a way to make them feel more uncomfortable. – jefflunt May 20 '12 at 12:38
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There is a second possibility. Management and HR are politely telling you that your teasing may be going over the line. They aren't ready to formally write anybody up, but this could be step one of the process.

If this is the case, you have to make sure that you don't single out the new employee. You also will have to work on stopping the worst of the teasing, or the quantity of teasing.

It may be nothing, but the fact that they came to you shows that there is at least some level of concern.

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