Why Mentor Matching Can't Be The End of Your Involvement

August 19, 2014

Mentor matching certainly sets the stage for how well a mentoring partnership will go Ė but itís not the end-all be-all of a mentoring partnership.

Whether because of personality clash, mismatched competencies, difficulty with communication, or a different reason entirely, sometimes mentor matching simply doesnít work out.

Itís often possible to save a mentoring partnership thatís on the rocks, but itís not always obvious to a program administrator that a mentoring partnership is in trouble until itís too late. Any time that the partnership can be saved, however, it always comes back to one thing: mentoring program communication.

Donít underestimate how necessary it is for you to check in with your mentors and mentees regularly, pay attention for warning signs, and report on the progress of individual partnerships as well as the overall mentoring program throughout its cycle.

How a Mentoring Partnership Falls Apart

  1. 1. Bad Mentor Match. The mentor matching process may go wrong for one of many reasons. But many times the higher mismatch rates occur either when a) the mentee is not clear about what they want to achieve in a mentoring partnership or b) program administrators are doing the matching on paper and by hand, especially with larger groups.

  2. 2. Personality Clash or Disrespect. Awkwardness and discomfort in new situations is completely normal, and may go away after a mentor and mentee have become more familiar with each other. Even so, a lack of ďchemistryĒ or ďsparksĒ can be manageable. For example, you may not have liked all of your teachers on a personal level, but chances are you still learned from them.

    The most important thing to remember is that the number one criteria for matching mentors and mentees must be development. If that lack of interpersonal chemistry keeps the development from taking place, the mentoring partnership will never succeed.

    One red flag you must watch out for, however, is a lack of respect. Even one-sided disrespect canít form the basis of a partnership, or foster development.

  3. 3. Passivity and Passive Aggression. Sometimes people with differences of opinion can many times enjoy discussion that shares ideas and worldviews. Sometimes they canít. In a mentoring partnership, if discussions during learning sessions fall into the latter category, you might see passive aggression and/or a complete halt of activities.

    Even if mentors or mentees donít come to you for help resolving a situation like this, itís crucial that you watch out for the warning signs so that you can step in as soon as possible. Likewise, if they do come to you, donít brush off their concerns. You expect them to invest in their partnership Ė and they expect you to invest in them.

  4. 4. Partnership Failure. If you arenít alert, the mentoring partnership can fail without you noticing. Activity will simply stop. The mentoring pair wonít meet. They wonít set goals. Theyíll give up on each other and the program as a whole.

    Depending on how closely the two partners work with each other in the organization and how far their discontent has spread, this can have negative consequences for not only their productivity and efficiency, the productivity and efficiency of those around them, and your organizational culture, but also for the longevity of your mentoring program due to bad word of mouth.

How a Mentoring Partnership Takes Off

  1. 1. Optimal Mentor Match. Great matches can be made with or without mentor matching software (though especially for larger pools of potential participants, mentoring software can drastically simplify the process and cut down on potential errors). For optimal matches, just make sure that the criteria and the process is as simple as possible.

    Complicating the process with several different matching criteria doesnít result in better matches: it just makes more work and frustration for you, and increases the possibility of mismatch. So whether you want to match participants manually, or allow them to browse each otherís profiles and match themselves, just remember to keep things simple.

  2. 2. Respect as the Basis of the Partnership. Great partnerships grow out of mutual respect. Even if there are troubles in a mentoring partnership, if both mentor and mentee still respect each other, most things can be fixed or compromised on.

  3. 3. Growing and Learning Together. The great thing about mentoring is that mentor and mentee can learn from each other Ė just in different ways. While the partnership should be driven by the mentee and their learning needs, being exposed to a new perspective in the organization can cause the mentor to learn as well.

  4. 4. Separation/Redefinition. Separation and redefinition of the mentoring partnership occurs when the formal mentoring program sponsored by the organization comes to an end Ė but that doesnít mean that the mentoring partnership has to come to an end as well. The mentor and mentee may decide to continue the partnership on their own time, contributing to a mentoring culture at your organization. But even if the mentor and mentee both decide not to stay on as mentor/mentee informally, a successful mentoring partnership ends on good, mutually beneficial terms for everyone involved.

The program administrator can make or break a mentoring program, so donít underestimate your importance. Learn more about our mentoring consulting solutions or request a demo today.


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