What Happens in a Bad Mentor Match?

April 08, 2016

After being matched with a mentor, the mentee has more than likely invested a good amount of time getting to know their mentor and already started to work on their developmental needs. However, sometimes the mentee may feel the match isn’t quite what they’d hoped it would be. What would be the smartest thing to do? Continue with the relationship and try and get it back on track, or end the relationship and find another mentor? We’ve turned to Stephen Grindrod for some advice on what to do if the mentee and mentor match isn’t quite living up to potential.

1. Should the mentee end the relationship if they feel their mentorship isn’t working?

Yes, but beforehand, they need to go back and workout what exactly didn’t work and decide whether it can be fixed or not. Here are some tips on to do that.
  • Go back to the mentoring agreement and review if what was agreed has been fulfilled, recognize that one person is never completely responsible for the success or failure of the partnership.
  • Review the agreed learning goals, were they even achievable? Why not? Does the mentor not have enough experience in these areas? Or does either party not have enough time to achieve the goals?
  • Be open with the mentor; let them know that what was agreed is becoming stagnated and ask for feedback if they feel the same?

2. What are the common reasons a mentorship isn’t successful?

They could have possibly been matched with wrong person, we strongly recommend using a mentor matching tool to ensure the mentee and mentor are a perfect match for each other. Perhaps the mentor situation changed and they have less availability. It’s possible that the mentee and mentor lack the necessary training to conduct their role. We recommend both the mentor and mentee should be trained. It could be as simple as the pairs personalities clash, both parties didn’t understand each other working style from the start of the relationship. Insala offers “Psychometric Assessments” that allows each other to understand their personality type and working style. If you understand your mentoring partner better at the start of the relationship you will have the right expectations on how they will interact with you.

3. How should the relationship end?

There will be times when a mentoring partnership does not work out for one reason or another. If terms cannot be negotiated or realigned, the mentor and mentee may need to split ways. This does not indicate failure on either person’s part; rather, it simply recognizes that the partnership is not productive. Meeting with the mentoring program administrator, may help receive advice from an objective third party, and they may be able to offer suggestions for improving your situation that you are unable to see. For example, maybe more than one mentor was actually needed; we called this a mentoring group. Remember this must end in a positive and professional way.

4. What should the mentee be doing to make sure the next relationship is successful?

The mentee should be as transparent as possible from the start on what they would like to receive from the mentorship. Make sure a mentoring agreement is created and both parties are in alignment. Any changes in either party’s situation should be discussed immediately, for example if the mentor can’t meet as often, then this needs to be communicated to the mentee to see if this will affect their learning goals.

When all is said and done, terminating a partnership isn’t always a bad thing. Don’t look at it as a failure, but look at it as an opportunity to adapt to a new mentor. Take the time you had with the last mentor and use it constructively in your next relationship and remember; Rome wasn’t built in a day.

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