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What Happens in a Bad Mentor Match?

You probably know that creating successful mentoring relationships is necessary to have a successful mentoring program. Your well developed matching process increases the likelihood of good pairs. Despite that, it is possible you will encounter a situation where one or both participants feel the match isn't quite what they hoped it would be.

What to do when a mentoring relationship is not working out?

What's the smartest thing to do in this scenario: continue with the relationship and try and get it back on track or end the relationship and re-match the mentee?
We’ve turned to our COO, Stephen Grindrod, for some advice on what to do if the mentee and mentor match isn’t living up to its 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:

    Go back to the mentoring agreement and review if what was agreed upon has been fulfilled. Are both parties giving enough time at the right interval for the relationship to be successful? It's important to recognize that one person is never completely responsible for the success or failure of the partnership.

    Review the agreed learning goals, were they achievable? If not, why? Does the mentor have enough experience in these areas? 

    Be open with the mentor. If the mentee is feeling the relationship has stagnated the mentee should ask if the mentor feels the same.

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

    Poor match from the start. 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.

    The mentor's situation changed. Sometimes we see the mentor's circumstances changed between when they volunteered and when they were matched. For example, they could have taken on a new project and have less availability.

    Lack of training. 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 so they fully understand the goals of the program, their role, and learn about possible challenges that could arise.  

    Personality clash. Sometimes we find that not understanding each other's working style from the start of the relationship can cause conflict. Insala offers “Psychometric Assessments” that allow participants to understand their personality type and working style and that of their mentor or mentee. 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 mentorship doesn't work out for one reason or another. If terms cannot be negotiated or realigned, the mentor and mentee may need to split ways.

    It is critical to note: This does not indicate failure on either person’s part; rather, it simply recognizes that the partnership is not productive.

    A meeting with the mentoring program administrator, mentor, and mentee gives the program admin the opportunity to make sure ending the relationship is right for the situation and aid in dissolving the relationship in a respectful and professional way. The program admin should also gather feedback from the mentor and mentee to understand if there is anything that needs to change about the matching process going forward that could improve the program overall.

Avoiding Bad Mentorship Matches

If you find that your matching process is resulting in many poor matched pairs, it's best to review your process and matching criteria. Additionally, gather feedback from participants to gain valuable insights into the health of your mentoring program. We suggest you do this through participant interviews and feedback surveys throughout the duration of the mentoring program.

Here are related articles that may help:

Our experts are here to support you. We offer mentoring consulting services to support you as you evaluate your mentoring program or as you're starting out. Our mentoring software saves you time by increases likelihood of good mentorship matches and enabling effective management of your mentoring program. Book time to speak with our team today.

Through innovative web-based SaaS technology, Insala partners with organizations to accelerate performance and drive evidence-based decisions for organizations and their people.


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