Workplace mentoring programs are one of the best ways to grow both in your skills and abilities and as a person. In fact, the Harvard Business Review notes that employees with a mentor are five times more likely to be promoted. Moreover, a leadership survey found that 88 percent of respondents believe that a mentor is important for career development.
Yet, mentorship is built on a relationship and like other connections in our lives may have a positive or negative impact on us. However, it is sometimes difficult to tell whether we are just having some minor setbacks in our mentor-mentee relationship or whether it is time to find a new mentor.
One study shows that the most common problems between mentors and mentees are poor communication, lack of commitment and a mentor’s lack of experience among others.
Here are some things to watch for that may indicate you need to find a new mentor match.
- Communication problems. Communication is key to working together and if you are not able to communicate well with your mentor, it could be a sign that you need a change. Before you make a switch, it is important that you try to make things work. Talking about expectations is one way that you and your mentor can connect and find common ground. However, if the communication disconnect continues for too long the mentor-mentee relationship will turn into a negative situation. It is best to attempt to resolve it within a few weeks or months rather than letting it drag on.
- Negative emotions. If the idea of meeting with your mentor causes you stress or anxiety that is a warning sign that it is not a good relationship. Some people can be difficult to work with and if that is the case with you and your mentor then you should switch. Your emotions are often a good gauge that something is not right. So, don’t ignore them.
- Bad influence. A mentor that is consistently complaining about the organization, the leadership or other employees is not the best advisor for anyone. Mentors should have a positive outlook and be encouraging you to meet your goals rather than using your meeting time as a time to vent.
- Mismatched goals or skills. Despite the best efforts of a workplace mentoring program manager some mentees are mismatched with a mentor. This can mean a personality clash or that the mentor does not have the skills that match your goals. Regardless of what the differences are between you and your mentor it is important to be clear about your goals or the skills you want to learn from the experience. This information can even help the mentoring program manager find a better match.
- Lack of feedback or support. Growth is an essential part of the mentoring experience. In order for it to be a productive experience, you need to be getting constructive feedback on a regular basis. Mentors that are not able to communicate well or who do not offer any guidance won’t help you grow. In the same way, a mentor that is too busy to meet with you often can be a red flag that the mentorship will be a bust.
How to Make a Smooth Switch
Making a smooth transition between mentors takes a bit of work and finesse. You will need to be tactful but direct with the mentor that you are leaving behind. They may not have been a good fit as a mentor but you don’t want to burn the bridge. They may still be a key contact to have at some other point in your career. Here are a few ways to switch mentors.
- Document your dissatisfaction. Write down the reason that the mentorship is not working out for you. Don’t forget to add the steps that you took to resolve the problems and the outcomes of your actions. However, be tactful and professional in your comments.
- Identify a new mentor match. This step depends on how your organization handles the mentor-mentee matching process. Mentoring software is often one of the best ways to ensure you get the right match. Together uses perimeters set by the mentoring program manager to cultivate good matches among mentors and mentees. Using these algorithms also saves time during the matching and introduction process.
- Plan a professional goodbye. Even though things didn’t work out between you and your mentor, it is important not to part ways on bad terms. Often times they can turn out to be a good resource in the future. Be professional and polite when you tell them that you no longer want them as your mentor.
- Practice gratitude. Even if the mentoring experience was not a good fit for you, it will still have served as a learning opportunity. Consider looking at the positives that you gained from it. Perhaps you can acknowledge that your goals needed to be further refined. Or recognize that you gained some new confidence in standing up for yourself by recognizing you needed to find another mentor and doing something about it.
Workplace mentoring programs are a common way that organizations offer extra support and opportunities to employees. However, a bad mentor-mentee match can lead to a bad experience, which, in turn, can have a negative impact on a workplace mentoring program. Because mentorship is essentially a professional relationship it is important to get a good match. There are ways to increase the likelihood of a successful mentor-mentee match. One of the best ways to create the right match is through a mentoring software program that can use parameters defined by the mentoring program administrator.