Is a Bad Mentorship Worse than None at All?

Is a Bad Mentorship Worse than None at All?

Mel Jones believes it is. At the Atlantic on Friday, she examined why many organizations are having trouble developing successful mentorship programs, arguing that they often “don’t have the buy-in they need from executives to succeed, and many people find them to be formulaic and pointless”:

There are many problems with the existing model of corporate mentorship, says Jennifer Labin, the principal partner of TERP Associates, a firm that specializes in creating public- and private-sector mentoring programs. “Mentoring programs have become this band-aid,” Labin says. She adds that, in her experience, programs are often “thrown together by overworked, overwhelmed people who’ve never built mentoring programs.” Many people in these roles have often never even been mentored themselves, according to Labin. …

What makes this so dangerous for companies is that there is more harm to be done by bad mentorship than their is good to be done by great mentorship.

Researchers have established that negative mentoring experiences caused more intense emotional and behavioral responses among employees compared to positive incidents. More, the ramifications of failed mentoring relationships can lead to emotional, psychological, and even physical ailments. And feelings about poorly executed mentoring programs can translate into negative feelings about a company. When a company has a lackluster mentoring program, Labin says, “you start to erode trust in the organization.”

The simplest step an organization can take to improve the results of its mentorship program, Labin tells Jones, is to put more thought into planning it, and considering the many benefits successful mentorship can have for both employee and employer, getting it right is worth the effort. That means (among other things) building a business case for your mentorship program, clarifying the roles and responsibilities of relevant stakeholders, and ensuring that incentives, expectations, and metrics for success are clearly defined. CEB Corporate Leadership Council members can get started with our Ignition Guide to Implementing a HIPO Mentoring Program.