New Business Mentoring To Build Agency Bench Strength: Part II

My prior post details six building blocks to create an effective mentoring program to help build new business bench strength. As not every mentoring relationship is a good one, prior to establishing a program it’s important to understand how it can go sour.

If we assume that ‘knowledge is power’, hopefully you’ll either avoid these pitfalls altogether or at least recognize them before they become a problem.

Five ways mentoring relationships can go wrong

Drs. Dawn Chandler and Lillian Eby detail ways to establish an effective mentoring program in a May 24, 2010 Wall Street Journal report:

  • Oil and water. The more the protege and mentor have in common, the greater the likelihood of a successful relationship. Example of a bad fit: a mentor who works long hours, and a protege who likes to leave the office by 5:00 pm.
  • Neglect of protege. If a mentor is too busy or too preoccupied, a protege can feel neglected. “Mentors must show an active interest and act in a positive way to advance their (protege’s) career and personal learning.”
  • Mentors who manipulate. The key to avoiding manipulation is to never have the protege’s mentor also be their supervisor. There are three types of manipulation:
  1. Tyranny: the mentor manages by intimidation. For example, a mentor threatens to demote a protege unless the protege pulls an all-nighter to fix a problem that the mentor caused.
  2. Inappropriate delegation: the mentor has the protege do work that the mentor should be doing; or, the mentor withholds assignments to keep the protege from getting ahead.
  3. Politicking: the mentor sabotages the protege’s work or takes undue credit for work the protege performs well. Mentors may also criticize their proteges behind their backs, blame them for mistakes they made themselves, or steal their protege’s ideas.
  • Sabotage against mentor. When things go sour, a protege may try to get back at their mentor for a real or perceived injustice – in other words, revenge. However, “The reason may have been sub-par performance. But rather than take personal responsibility, some proteges blame the mentor for not providing adequate support.”
  • Jealous protege. Imagine two long-time employees who have worked and competed against each other for year: one is “promoted and becomes responsible for the development of his or her former peer.” It’s easy to see how this can become a problem.

All of these potential pitfalls can be avoided through the set-up and management process described in the prior post. Most importantly, avoid making a supervisor the mentor of one of their employees.


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