Bad Mentoring Relationships

April 1, 2014

While mentoring is an established way to improve workplace and academic skills, not all mentoring relationships are equally successful. In a Wall Street Journal Article, Dawn E. Chandler, Dr. Lillian Eby (a keynote speaker at the 2013 Mentoring Conference) and Stacy E. McManus, point out some common issues with mentoring relationships. 


1. Incompatible Individuals

In this instance, the mentor and protégé have little in common or incompatible schedules. The result is a relationship that is distant, unharmonious, and ultimately unsuccessful.  


2. Neglect-Prone Mentors

While most mentors take their job seriously, some ignore their mentee due to busy careers, issues with their organization, or simply lack of care. This can lead to a feeling of neglect in the protégé, and may result in an early end to the relationship. 


3. Malevolent Mentors

These mentors manipulate their mentee in various ways. For example, a mentor could make a protégé do unnecessary work, or tasks meant for completion by the mentor. Even worse, bad mentors will sometimes attempt to damage a mentees reputation in order to hurt their prospects for promotion.


4. Problematic Protégées

Sometimes the protégé is the troublesome individual in the relationship.  Any bad behavior on the part of the mentee can reflect poorly on the mentor, and the mentor's superiors could end up blaming the mentor for the mentees actions. 


5. Overly- Dependent Mentee

These protégés tend to rely on their Mentor too much, and don’t experiment or try new ideas on their own. As a result, they don’t learn as much as they should in the mentoring relationship.


6. Envious Employees

Imagine a scenario in which one of two rival employees was promoted, and the promoted employee was told to mentor the other non promoted employee. This sort of event would likely spark jealousy on the part of the un-promoted employee, which could make the mentoring relationship difficult. 


(Our next post will contain some solutions to these Mentoring Problems!)


Chandler, D., Eby, L., & McManus, S. (n.d.). When Mentoring Goes Bad. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved April 1, 2014, from