Workplace mentoring has become one of the most powerful tools that organizations have to enhance employee engagement, reduce turnover, and boost productivity. Over 70 percent of Fortune 500 companies offer employee mentorships. These key relationships help participants to develop skills such as communication, managing conflict, and more.
Mentoring programs in the workplace can take on different shapes and goals such as:
Some organizations use mentoring to improve diversity and inclusivity, while others use it to expand the skills of their employees. One of the essential factors in a mentoring program is the matches made and the relationships that develop. A mentor can create a lifelong change in a mentee’s life. While most of the experiences of mentorships are positive, some are not.
The role of a mentor is to guide and teach. When that role is abused, the mentorship becomes toxic for the mentee. Toxic mentors are more likely to control rather than teach. They leave a mentee feeling bad about the experience.
No one wants to go through a bad mentoring experience. It is essential to know what signs to look for to avoid getting entangled in a toxic mentorship.
Mentoring at work should be a positive experience. Here are some ways to spot a toxic mentor and get out of the relationship before the lousy experience gets worse.
A mentor that is more focused on their superiority to a mentee is not in the right mindset to guide anyone. Mentoring is about helping someone else develop their skills and abilities. It is difficult to offer guidance when you only think about yourself.
Toxic mentors fail to acknowledge the accomplishments of mentees. This lack of encouragement is not only disappointing but can also leave a mentee feeling disheartened about their abilities and progress.
It is understandable that mentors are busy and will sometimes have to reschedule meetings, but you might be working with a toxic mentor when it becomes a habit.
Good mentors will not need to dominate the conversation. Rather, meetings will include hearing from mentees as well as offering advice. Listening is one of the key things that you want to have in common with your mentor. Be wary of mentors who take over the conversation.
One of the values of mentorship is to learn from another person’s mistakes. If a mentor cannot admit they’ve made errors in the past, they’re likely toxic.
Relationships need boundaries and mentorship is no different. A mentor and mentee should share their expectations with each other at one of the first meetings. It helps if you know the right questions to ask your mentor. If you have a mentor that does not want to define boundaries or fails to respect them, consider them a toxic mentor. Ask to be re-paired.
Some individuals like to demonstrate how important they are by sharing inappropriate information about others in the office. A mentor who shares too much about people they know will also gossip about you when you are not there. You don’t need that. Consider them toxic and move on.
Mentees are not obliged to follow the advice of mentors. If a mentor criticizes you - publicly or privately - for not listening to them it might be time for you to request a re-match from the mentoring program manager.
Laughing together can cultivate a strong bond between people, including mentors and mentees. Even if your mentor is more serious by nature, they should be able to smile now and again. If not, you may want to find someone else to work with.
Mentees look to mentors to help them achieve goals and advice on how to handle workplace situations and scenarios. When mentors offer bad advice it can have a long-lasting impact on a mentee. If your mentor regularly offers you bad advice, consider cutting your ties.
Good mentors value mentees. And good mentorships are built on trust and respect. Without these vital elements, mentoring can become toxic. There are some things that mentees can do to be sure they don’t get into a bad mentoring situation, such as:
Keep in mind that the focus of mentorship is to help the mentor develop, not to create a clone of the mentor. While mentors can make mistakes, when it becomes all about them and less about the mentee, it has turned toxic.