In this post we will discuss a dysfunctional relationship that manifests as negative relations where there is definitely some bad intention on one of the partners in the sphere of social relations. The two most common forms are bullying and becoming hostile to each other.
Bullying within mentoring relationships sometimes occur especially with the stereotypical tyrannical mentor who must have everything his way. The mentor may either be exploitative, manipulative or egocentric. This kind of mentor will use spirituality or organizational power to manipulate the mentoring partner into submission. The mentor within organisational settings wields both power and authority. If the mentoring partner pushes back then the relationship becomes abusive or the mentoring partners become organizational enemies. The resultant dilemma for the mentoring partner becomes choosing to remain in an exploitive relationship or enter into conflict with the mentor (who is defined as a more senior and more powerful individual in the organization). Either alternative is unpleasant and potentially damaging to the mentoring partner emotionally. A hypothetical case is where the mentor befriends a charge and provides counsel but with the intention of financial gain. The moment the protégé draws the line, the mentor becomes vindictive and seeks to manipulate his charge. For example in a spiritual setting the issue of honour for the mentor may be drawn too far resulting in the protégé failing to extricate himself out of the abusive relationship without feeling guilty.
Issues of co-dependency and suffocation within the relationship can occur. Some people cannot make any decision without the input of the mentor or alternatively the mentor has to approve any decision made by protégé. As pointed out before the mentor provides insight and guidance but the final decision should always remain with the emerging champion. Some dysfunctional mentors become surrogate mothers in the lives of the protégé and impose themselves in every aspect of his life. A rule of thumb is that the mentor should only give counsel when it has been sought unless the situation has dire consequences. Mentors exist in a person’s life by invitation and therefore should be cautious to maintain the boundaries of the protégé. Mentors should not seek to live out their dreams through the lives of their mentoring partners.
Some mentoring partners feed into the tyrannical behaviours of mentors by being timidly submissive and unquestioning. This normally emanates from unhealthy parent-child relationships. The emerging champion should be able to honour and respect the mentor while at the same time reserving his ability to think critically and assess the counsel and advice of the mentor. An unhealthy submissive relationship may be a way to avoid responsibility for the actions of the mentored person. However in life despite the input of our mentors we are ultimately responsible for our choices and destiny. Consequently if my mentor becomes abusive I reserve the right to terminate the relationship. I should not be controlled by the mentor. Influenced – yes. But controlled – absolutely not.