Mentoring and stress management

July 28, 2019

There are many benefits to a workplace mentoring program including improving employee engagement and retention and skill development. Research has shown that there are also some positive health effects for both the mentor and mentee including reduced stress levels at work.

Workplace mentoring programs can have a positive impact on the stress level of both the mentor and mentee. This often happens for different reasons and in different ways, but it also reinforces the overall benefit that a mentoring program can have for an organization.


Reducing stress levels through mentoring

Among the benefits that workplace mentoring programs can have on participants, research has shown that mentoring can have a positive emotional impact on a mentor and mentee. In research circles, mentoring has often been seen as a way to change behavior in a mentee. This is because, traditionally, mentoring helps guides mentees to re-engage with their workplace or to advance their career through skill development and networking. Yet, one study has found that it can also lead to changes in a person’s attitude and health as well. In addition, a study reported on in the Harvard Business Review (HBR) found that the act of mentoring can have a positive impact on the stress levels of a mentor.

“Our experiment results showed that people who served as mentors experienced lower levels of anxiety, and described their job as more meaningful, than those who did not mentor,” the publication stated.

Here are some of the ways that mentoring can reduce stress at work:

Discussion. Mentors are often those go-to people that mentees can turn to when they are dealing with stressful situations or scenarios. This can serve as a type of counselling and help the mentee overcome the stress and develop a positive way to handle the situation. Talking about workplace problems can also help the mentor handle their stress, according to the HBR. “Mentors heard their mentees’ accounts of anxiety and realized these feelings — which they also shared — were commonplace. By acknowledging that these anxieties were common, both mentees and mentors grew more comfortable in discussing them and in sharing different coping mechanisms. Mentors often found their interactions with junior colleagues therapeutic.” Just how talking about issues with friends or family can help us better understand the problem, discussing workplace stressors in a mentoring relationship can be cathartic.

Advisor. One of the biggest roles a mentor takes on in workplace mentoring programs is that of an advisor. Beyond discussing workplace problems, mentors can offer some guidance for mentees looking to achieve work-life balance. A major stressor for many Americans has been finding time and energy for work, family, friends and other activities they enjoy. Mentors can offer some tangible advice for these mentees on finding the right balance to avoid stress.

Skill development. In a workplace mentorship, there is the potential for a variety of skills to be developed or passed on. Mentees can benefit from being taught time management and delegation skills. Many times, employees can feel overwhelmed with the expectations placed on them. Helping them learn the skills to make them more effective and reduce their workplace burdens can also lead to a reduction in stress levels.

Enhance confidence. Mentoring can improve the self-esteem of the participants. Sometimes mentors act as a counter for a negative self-image of a mentee, which can help the mentee develop more confidence. Workplace mentoring programs can also improve the self-esteem of mentors by helping them utilize their skills and knowledge in a new way. It also produces a sense of giving back in the mentor, which can lead to a more positive outlook. In cases where diversity is a reality, mentorships that help minorities advance at their organization can also create feelings of self-worth and accomplishment.

Support healthy choices. Another way that mentors can have a good impact on the health of their mentee is to support exercise plans. They may even participate in physical activities together. A mentor may also advise their mentee of health services they can access to improve their stress levels and life.  


Preventing burnout with workplace mentoring

An additional study conducted at the Northern Illinois University found that individuals in high-stress jobs can benefit from mentoring, which can reduce the stress felt but also prevent burnout.  

“When this mentoring was part of a formal programme, these employees were likely to experience lower levels of emotional and cognitive fatigue, gain a greater sense of confidence and self-efficacy, and lessen their intentions to leave the organisation,” a media report on the study stated.

Some jobs have higher stress levels, such as first responders, however, there are some employees who are more sensitive to job pressures. These individuals can benefit from the support of a mentor who is equipped to help them develop coping strategies.

“Mentors can be a buffer for those individuals who may be experience levels of stress and burnout,” lead researcher Lebena Varghese said. “We think mentoring, either formal or informal, can be particularly effective in offsetting vulnerability to stress and burnout for individuals who score higher on this trait.”

Other areas that can cause stress for mentees include workplace politics and communication. A mentor who has been with the organization for some time will have a better understanding of how to navigate the waters in a productive and effective way.


Conclusion

When it comes to reducing workplace stress, mentoring programs have been proven an effective way for both mentors and mentees manage and handle stressors in their lives. The ability to discuss the problems with one another, support and advice, the mentorship connection, enhanced confidence and encouraging healthy choices are some of the ways that mentoring in the workplace can help employees deal with stress and reduce the chance of burnout.

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