Mentor At Work

6 People Who Should Not Be Your Mentor At Work

What’s common between Alexander the Great and Steve Jobs? They are famous leaders, we’d agree. But while one sailed in ancient times, the other was a wizard of the modern era. There’s one more thread tying these two, and many more greats, together: the presence of a mentor. Alexander had Aristotle, and Jobs had Robert Friedland. Who do you have?

Mentorship plays a significant role in our professional development and career success. Having a mentor at work can provide valuable guidance, support, and constructive feedback that can help us navigate the challenges and opportunities in our careers. However, not all mentors are created equal, and choosing the right mentor who aligns with our career goals and values is important. This blog will explore the types of people who should not be your mentor at work and the impact of a wrong mentor choice on your professional growth.

Mentorship programs in the workplace are designed to facilitate the professional growth and development of employees. They provide a platform for knowledge sharing, skill development, and relationship building. A great mentor can offer guidance, support, and insights based on their experience and expertise to help you. Further, they can help you develop leadership skills, navigate career challenges, and achieve your goals.

Benefits of Having a Mentor at Work

A mentor plays a crucial role in the professional development of their mentee. They act as a sounding board, offering guidance and support based on their own experiences and expertise. A mentor can provide valuable insights and knowledge, help you develop new skills, and navigate professional challenges. They can also facilitate knowledge sharing within the organization, fostering a culture of learning and growth.

Why Should You Get a Mentor at Work?

Effective mentorship can have a transformative impact on your career. For instance, Steve Jobs’ mentor was critical to his spiritual journey and shaping up personal beliefs that would seem absurd to the layperson.

His Microsoft co-founder talks about the impact in a conversation with Forbes, “[Jobs’] reality distortion is when he has an illogical vision of the future, such as telling me that I could design the Breakout game in just a few days. You realize that it can’t be true, but he somehow makes it true.

That’s the impact of a great mentor. A great mentor can help mentees clarify their career goals, set actionable steps to achieve them, and provide ongoing guidance and support. A strong mentor-mentee relationship is built on trust, open communication, and most importantly, mutual respect. This respect is essential for your success. A great mentor can serve as a role model, inspire you to reach your full potential, and provide valuable insights and advice based on their experiences. Now that we know what a mentor can do for you, let’s try to understand who should not be your mentor at work!

Read more: Exploring Coaching vs Mentoring: Which Approach Fits You Best?

While having a mentor can be beneficial, you need to be cautious about who you choose as your mentor. Not all mentors are suitable for everyone, and there are certain types of people who should not be your mentors at work. Let’s explore some of these types and understand why they may not be the best choice for being a mentor at work. Remember, having a mentor at work can be super beneficial. But, having the wrong one is a hazard for your career.

The Overly Critical Mentor

The overly critical mentor is someone who constantly criticizes and provides negative feedback without offering any constructive solutions or guidance. You might have even met them out in the wild sometimes; think of all the managers you have had. Some behaviors of extra-critical mentors that you might notice are:

  • Frequently point out your mistakes and shortcomings without offering solutions.
  • Rarely, if ever, provides positive reinforcement or encouragement.
  • Focuses on what you did wrong rather than how you can improve.
  • Makes you feel demoralized and discouraged rather than motivated to grow.
While constructive feedback is essential for professional growth and development, an overly critical mentor demoralizes and hinders your progress. They focus more on pointing out your mistakes and shortcomings rather than supporting your growth and nurturing your talents. It is important to choose a mentor who provides constructive feedback in a supportive and encouraging manner, keeping your growth at the center, not the task.

The Self-Centered Mentor

A self-centered mentor is someone who is primarily focused on their own success and advancement rather than genuinely supporting and helping their mentee. What does a self-centered mentor look like?

  • They use conversations and meetings to talk about their own achievements.
  • Prioritizes their own career advancement over your development.
  • Rarely makes time to address your needs or concerns.
  • May use your work or ideas to further their own career without giving you credit.
Further, they may use the mentoring relationship to boost their ego or further their career goals rather than prioritizing the mentee’s professional development. You need to choose a mentor who is genuinely invested in your growth and success and willing to dedicate time and effort to support your career goals.

The Uncommitted Mentor

An uncommitted mentor is not fully dedicated or engaged in the mentoring relationship. They may not prioritize regular meetings or follow through on commitments made to their mentee. You will notice that they show little interest in your growth. An uncommitted mentor can hinder your progress and slow down your professional growth. Choosing a mentor who is committed to the mentoring relationship and willing to invest time and effort to support your career goals is essential.

Read more about the impact of mentorship: Mentorship Matters: The Role of Managers in Shine Nagpal’s Professional Journey

The Micromanager

A micromanager mentor is someone who excessively monitors and controls every aspect of their mentee’s work, leaving little room for autonomy or growth. The difference is only slight, but it has a big impact. If you are working with a micromanaging mentor at work, you’d see:

  • Insistance on being involved in every minor detail of your work.
  • Providing little room for you to make decisions or take initiative.
  • Frequently checking in on your work and progress, often unnecessarily.
  • Making you feel like you lack autonomy and the ability to grow independently.
While guidance and support are essential, a micromanager mentor can stifle creativity and hinder professional development. You need a mentor who nudges you toward the goal, not someone who can block your way. Choosing a mentor who allows you to take ownership of your career development and encourages independent thinking and decision-making is important.

The Mentor Lacking Empathy

Suppose you are in a low mood regarding your career prospects. What do you expect your mentor at work to do at this time? Offer critical feedback or empathize with the situation and work around it slowly? Or, are you even comfortable enough to be vulnerable around them? There are more signs that your mentor at work could be hurting your mindset:

  • Provides advice without considering your personal circumstances or emotions.
  • Shows little understanding or compassion when you face challenges.
  • Makes you feel unsupported on an emotional level.
A mentor lacking empathy is someone who does not understand or consider the emotions and well-being of their mentee. They may not provide the emotional support and understanding that is necessary for a healthy mentor-mentee relationship. It is crucial to choose a mentor who is empathetic and understanding, someone who can provide support and guidance while considering your emotional well-being.

The Gossipmonger

You are your most open and vulnerable version with a mentor at work. If the person is great, you are in good hands. But your personal information is also a goldmine for gossipmongers in the office. A gossipmonger mentor engages in gossip and spreads rumors in the workplace.

They may use the mentoring relationship to share confidential information or engage in negative discussions about colleagues or the organization. A mentor who is a gossipmonger can damage your professional reputation and hinder your career development. Choosing a mentor who maintains professional boundaries and promotes a positive and respectful work environment is essential for your growth.

Did any of the six mentors discussed above resonate with you? Sometimes, you may be approached by someone who wants to be your mentor but may not be the right fit for you. In such situations, it is important to decline the offer politely and professionally. Here’s how you can decline someone’s offer to mentor you at work:

  • Be honest: Express gratitude for their offer but politely explain that you are looking for a mentor with specific expertise or experience. While doing this, keep your tone respectful and appreciative.
  • Suggest alternatives: If possible, recommend other potential mentees who may benefit from their guidance.
  • Maintain a professional relationship: Even if you decline their offer, continue to foster a professional relationship with the person, as they may still provide valuable insights or connections in the future.
Remember, choosing a mentor who aligns with your career goals and values is crucial. Politely declining an offer allows you to find the right mentor who will support your professional growth.

Finding the Right Mentor At Work

Finding the right mentor is crucial for your career success and professional growth. To get started on the journey of finding a mentor at work, these should be your initial steps:

  • Identify your goals: Determine the specific areas in which you need guidance and support. This will help you find a mentor with the relevant expertise.
  • Seek recommendations: Ask trusted colleagues, supervisors, or industry professionals for recommendations on potential mentors.
  • Attend networking events: Participate in industry conferences, seminars, or workshops to meet professionals who share your interests and can potentially become mentors.
  • Join mentorship programs: Many organizations offer formal mentorship programs that pair mentees with experienced professionals. Take advantage of these programs to find a mentor within your industry.
  • Try Risely: Not every workplace has the bandwidth to facilitate mentorship for all its employees. While it’s a sad fact, it’s not the end of the journey. You can check out Merlin, Risely’s AI coach for people managers, who offers guidance at a hyper-personalized level as and when needed. Plus, there’s a free trial, too, just for you!
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In conclusion, choosing the right mentor is crucial for your professional growth. Avoid mentors who hinder your progress by being overly critical, self-centered, uncommitted, micromanagers, lacking empathy, or gossipmongers. A wrong mentor choice can lead to stagnation in growth, decreased morale, and missed opportunities. Look for red flags, politely decline inappropriate mentorship offers, and seek mentors who possess qualities that align with your goals. Finding the right mentor can positively shape your career and provide invaluable guidance. Remember, a supportive mentor can empower you to reach your full potential and navigate your career path successfully.

Feeling stuck in your career? Talk to Merlin.

Meet Risely’s AI coach for people managers who solves your challenges one step at a time.

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