By Natanya Rutstein
Acquiring contemporary insights and fresh perspective from your mentee coupled with gaining satisfaction from sharing your hard-earned knowledge and expertise with them are just some of the more obvious and commonly discussed advantages of being a mentor. However, new research shows that being a mentor may have the potential to reduce your stress levels and improve your current state of mind.
A recent article in the Harvard Business Review discusses the beneficial effects of mentoring on the emotional wellbeing of the mentor. The authors, Michael Gill and Thomas Roulet, conducted a study of a formal mentoring programme in the police force in England to determine its impact on the emotional wellbeing of the participating mentors.
The study looked at the stress levels of both mentors and mentees, what they enjoyed about their work, how they coped with stress and the impact of the mentoring relationship on the ability to deal with stress. Study results revealed that the policemen who mentored junior officers were far less anxious and stressed at work than those who did not. They also reported that participating in the development of a junior officer and witnessing the fruits of their efforts made their work more meaningful.
According to the authors, “mentoring afforded senior officers, as well as junior officers, a venue for discussing and reflecting on concerns. Mentors heard their mentees’ accounts of anxiety and realized these feelings — which they also shared — were commonplace. By acknowledging that these anxieties were common, both mentees and mentors grew more comfortable in discussing them and in sharing different coping mechanisms. Mentors often found their interactions with junior colleagues therapeutic.”
The authors concluded that the mentoring relationship provided the mentors with a way of gaining the support that they needed but were often were not comfortable to ask for. The mentoring relationship nurtured the development of trust between the parties and created a forum where they felt safe to communicate more openly and honestly about difficult or personal issues. Talking about stressful situations commonly experienced in a particular job can help to normalise feelings of stress and potentially minimise some of the stigma which is attached to related mental health issues.
Although policing is an especially stressful profession and may not necessarily be directly comparable to the average organisational environment, they believe that their findings can be applied in different working environments to reduce the stress levels of mentors and positively impact their state of mind.