CausesofDysfunctionalMentorship


Although it is clear that good mentoring leads to positive outcomes, bad mentoring may be destructive. In some cases, it may be worse than no mentoring at all. Although truly dysfunctional mentoring relationships are likely to terminate, relationships that are marginally effective may simply endure. Perhaps these relationships endure because the mentoring partner receives some limited help from the mentor, or because he does not want to risk negative repercussions from terminating the relationship. Perhaps, these marginal, dependent or abusive relationships serve needs that are simply dysfunctional; some individuals may seek dysfunctional work relationships just as they seek dysfunctional home relationships. Dysfunctional mentoring relationships may result in more harm than not being mentored.

Researchers noted that some mentoring relationships run into turmoil when:

ü  the interests of the parties change,

ü  differences in judgement exist between mentoring partners and each party insists on its view,

ü  Mentoring partners have undue involvement in one another’s personal problems beyond the levels of the other’s comfort.

ü  Some mentors are tyrannical or selfish.

Sometimes people have idealized images of mentors and the mentoring process and when their ideal and realities of mentoring fail to match problems arise. Mentors are frail human beings who face challenges like everyone else. Failure to appreciate this results in protégés being frustrated and disappointed when they encounter the humanity of their role models.

Sometimes mismatches occur in formalized mentoring. This results in serious conflicts within the mentoring relationship. Studies have shown that formalised mentoring is less effective than informal relationship based mentoring. I agree with Andrew Gibbons[1] who argues, “A deep irony is that often, the more organised and structured we make mentoring, the less likely it is to really work. I feel that mentors are like noses and strawberries – it’s best if you pick your own. Thus, even the best intentioned efforts to make mentoring work, can founder as it will have its most positive effect when it evolves naturally, often without consciously considering mentoring is happening at all”.

Another potential cause of dysfunction is lack of support and unrealistic expectations.


[1] Andrew Gibbons, Getting the Most from Mentoring accessed from www.oscm.co.uk.

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