Beware These 9 Mentor and Mentee Red Flags

Mentorship can be the key to professional development, but it takes a good working relationship and clear communication to make it happen. Not every mentor/mentee relationship is smooth sailing. Knowing what to look out for and how to confront it can help your mentorship thrive.

1. Lack of Commitment

A good mentor/mentee relationship is understanding what the mentor can do for you and what they can not. When meeting times, expectations, and goals are set, a good mentor should be consistent and committed to fulfilling that agreement. Slip-ups happen to everyone, so keep open communications throughout the relationship to help establish long-term mentorship. Understand why the mentor/mentee is not committing fully and readjust to fit everyone’s needs. 

2. Rarely Meeting

Not everyone can meet once a week or once a month. Yet, a good mentor meets frequently to form an understanding of their mentee. It’s a mutual relationship that benefits from knowing one another and growing together. You cannot progress with the mentorship if they are not there to help. 

3. Relying on Mentor/Mentee for Emotional Support

Positive mentorships are there to support you in your professional endeavors. They can cheer you on when you are hesitant to ask for a raise or bluntly tell you your weaknesses. They should not be there for office gossip. If you feel your mentor or mentee is turning to you for emotional support instead of professional, address it immediately. Do not be afraid of setting boundaries within your mentorship and helping them meet with health care professionals. 

4. Taking Credit

One of the more obvious red flags in mentorship is taking credit. Doing all the work and getting none of the recognition is not a supportive relationship. A part of mentorship is their sponsorship in advocating for your skills and work ethic. If a mentor or mentee takes credit away from the other, it hinders their future career aspirations. 

5. Quick to Accuse or Diminish 

While mentors point out our strengths and weaknesses, the meetings should not be overly negative. Mentors who continue to blame the mentee for their shortcomings will not create a supportive environment that encourages professional development. Sometimes we need someone there to help celebrate small wins like getting the courage to voice a strong opinion during a meeting or setting up a one-on-one with their boss to discuss a raise. Dismissing these baby steps or using negative reinforcement will not support the long-term mentorship.

6. Transferring Desires

Having a mentee does not mean shaping someone to be just like you. Everyone is on their own path to success, and how you achieve your goals is not always the same as others. It is vital that a mentor does not push their mentality onto their mentee and transfer their desires onto them. Allow them to grow on their own and use your experiences as references.

7. Unwilling to Share 

Like many relationships, relating to one another and being vulnerable creates trust. Strong mentorships will share life experiences as well as their network, resources, or other supportive material. When one person in the mentorship refuses to use or share, then it defeats the purpose of the mentoring. It is a mutual relationship to help one another succeed professionally. Staying open with communication while respecting each other’s boundaries will lead to a better relationship between the mentor and mentee.

8. Defensive 

Sometimes how one person solves a problem does not work for another. A mentee could progress towards their goals down a different path than their mentor. This does not necessarily mean they are not listening and ignoring the mentor’s advice. People learn using different techniques, and a good mentor will recognize that advice does not mean command or request. Mentee’s who get defensive about their behavior will also slow down their career development. Repeating the same action and wanting to see a different result will not show progress. 

9. Lack of Improvement 

When a mentor puts all their energy and effort into helping a mentee, it’s up to the mentee to use what they receive to flourish. Putting in the work can be difficult sometimes to apply. Take baby steps to slowly work on your weakness. But, if the mentee is not improving at all, then it is a red flag that something is not working. Communication and clear deadlines can be a start to a more positive outcome. Yet, at some point, the mentor needs to cut off the mentorship if the mentee still is not improving.  

Looking to enhance your mentoring skills?

IAW is dedicated to helping professional women find resources, mentorship, and more at any stage of their career. Visit your local chapter here to find a mentor/mentee in your neighborhood, or choose from thousands of experienced women all across the globe in our online community.

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