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How to sabotage your mentoring program 

August 20, 2019

Companies spend time, money and energy developing a workplace mentoring program. Yet, when it comes to workplace mentoring programs some organizations can be sabotaging the success of their programs. 

When clear objectives, goals, and boundaries are lacking, mentorships can and do fail. However, there are some things that you can do to stop undermining your workplace mentoring program. 


Mentoring program mistakes to avoid

Organizations may not intend to hamper their mentoring program efforts but there are some things that happen that can damage the initiative. These include:

  1. Poorly defined program objectives: To develop a successful workplace mentoring program there needs to be a plan in place. As part of the plan, an organization needs to clearly define the objectives of the program. Some of these may include improving diversity, reducing turnover and boosting employee engagement. Without formally stating these objectives it will be difficult to measure the success - or failure - of a mentoring program. 
  2. No accountability: Although mentorships are often seen as relationships between a mentor and mentee, organizations need to help foster the relationship. Mentoring software is one of the most efficient ways to do this. From registration to pairing to scheduling and reporting, programs like Together can streamline the job for mentor program managers. It can also assist the mentor and mentee by guiding the relationship in the right direction.
  3. Lack of promotion (URL): Organizations should be advertising and promoting their mentorship program in a variety of ways to ensure a healthy participation rate among employees. This can be recommending new hires for the program or it can be encouraging mature employees to give back and help others develop their talent. 
  4. Inadequate preparation: There are no born mentors. To help improve the chances of success for a workplace mentoring program it is key to train your mentors.  This means having them undergo instruction in things like communication strategies, goal setting, and leadership. Essentially, the better equipped a mentor is, the better the chances a mentoring program has in succeeding. 
  5. Match failure: Mentorships are built on relationships, which can make getting a good mentor-mentee match challenging. Mentoring software such as Together can help find a good match between participants. By using algorithms and data based on your organizations’ specifications, matching mentors to mentees can take just minutes. 


Damaging mentorships for mentees

Mentees look forward to building a relationship with their mentor that will help foster their careers and assist them in achieving their goals. When this doesn’t happen and they find themselves paired with a mentor who falls short it can be more than just disappointing, it can be damaging. One such rising star discovered that rather than help celebrate his career achievements, his mentor was trying to sabotage him

While the mentor-mentee connection can be mutually beneficial if the mentee starts succeeding past expectations a mentor can start to feel threatened rather than proud.  Ultimately, this can create a toxic environment for everyone in the workplace. 

Moreover, inexperienced mentors can sometimes miss an opportunity to help the mentee develop their strengths and instead try to turn the mentee into a carbon copy of themselves. These situations can have a lasting negative impact on both the mentee and the mentor. 


Tips for successful workplace mentorships

There is no quick formula for creating a workplace mentorship that works but there are some things that  can help facilitate a good match and, in turn, a good mentorship. 

  1. Multiple mentors: Rather than putting all your mentoring eggs in one basket as it were, having more than one mentor is a good way to be successful. The trick is to find individuals who have different skills, talents, and strengths to help you achieve your goals. In this way, if one of the mentors turns out to be a problem, there is no need to continue with the relationship. 
  2. Have a plan: Having an outline of what the mentorship should achieve is another good way to develop a foundation that leads to a productive mentorship. One of the first things that a mentee can do is to define the objectives and goals they want to accomplish during the mentoring program. It will also help to set out the meeting schedule ahead of time so that the mentor and mentee both know what to expect. 
  3. Communicate concerns: As a mentee, if you are having some doubts or concerns with regards to your mentor, don’t be afraid to bring those up. Some problems that you may want to tackle earlier rather than later include a mentor regularly canceling meetings or having a dismissive approach to your or your goals. By raising these concerns earlier sometimes the mentorship can be repaired while other times it will be better for you to discontinue with the mentor. Either way, you won’t be wasting your time and energy in a workplace mentorship that doesn’t work for you. 
  4. Feedback: Whether your experience was good or bad, providing the mentor program manager with feedback is a key way to impact future mentorships at your organization. Letting them know  your concerns and challenges as well as the things that worked can help build a more robust workplace mentoring program. 



Organizations that take the time and energy to develop a workplace mentoring program can sometimes sabotage their efforts. However, developing a mentoring program strategy, outlining measurable objectives and watching for issues or conflict before they become problems can help ensure the success of a mentoring program in the workplace. 

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