Why Does Mentoring Go Bad?

by drjim on July 22, 2010

If A Mentoring Relationship Goes Bad, You Could Get Bitten

If A Mentoring Relationship Goes Bad, You Could Get Bitten

Quiz: what’s the best way to get your IT Leader career on the fast track to success? Answer: find yourself a good mentor. If you can find such a mentor, then you might think that you’ve got it made in the shade, so to speak. Umm, maybe not. If that mentoring relationship goes bad, your career just might be in trouble…

You’re Not Like Me – And That’s A Bad Thing

One of the key components of any mentoring relationship is that both the mentor and the mentee (is that even a word?) need to be compatible. You might think that this is a no-brainer, I mean the mentor accepted the role, right? However, this is not always the case: sometimes companies step in and assign mentoring pairs. In these types of cases, incompatible personalities can find themselves thrown together.

If you find yourself in this type of mentoring relationship, something’s got to give. Either you or the other party is going to have to make some changes in order to make the relationship work. If neither one of you is willing to bend, or bend enough, then it may be time to dissolve the deal.

I Don’t Have Time For You

When someone agrees to be a mentor, it’s really as though they are taking on another job. This is all fine and good, until their “real” job starts to require too much time. If this happens, then there’s a good chance that they won’t have enough (any) time to spend mentoring.

If you are the one being mentored, then if your mentor all of a sudden stops having time to work with you, what are you going to think? Clearly you’re not going to be happy about this and if it goes on for even a short amount of time you are quickly going to become resentful.

Even if the mentor’s time frees up again, the damage will already have been done. No longer will you be open to working with him/her and the benefits of mentoring will have evaporated for both of you.

Hey, Stop Doing That!

The worst thing that can happen to a mentoring relationship is if the mentor starts to manipulate the person that they are mentoring. This type of bad behavior most often occurs when the mentor is somewhere along the mentee’s reporting structure.

Manipulation can take on many forms. One form occurs when the mentor starts to boss the mentee around. Once again, this is an easy role to fall into if the person being mentored actually reports to the person doing the mentoring.

Since a mentor often has the ability to assign work to the mentee, this is another area where manipulation can creep in. By either assigning the wrong tasks or by withholding the right ones, a mentor can wreak havoc on the mentoring relationship.

What All Of This Means For You

There’s no doubt that a mentoring relationship can be one of the best things that can happen to any IT Leader’s career. It’s just that you need to make sure that it doesn’t lead to a divorce.

Mentoring relationships can go bad if the two parties are incompatible, don’t have enough time to nurture the relationship, or engage in manipulation. Once started, any of these actions can have a disastrous effect on the mentoring.

If you find yourself in a mentoring relationship that is going wrong, take action quickly! The longer that you stay in a bad mentoring situation, the less effective it’s going to be for both of you…

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: What would you do if you found yourself in a bad mentoring relationship?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Finding a mentor can be a real challenge for any IT Leader – they seem to be few and far between these days. However, if you think that when you get someone to agree to show you the ropes that the hard part is over, you’ve got another thing coming…

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