By Natanya Rutstein
While so much attention appears to be focused on the behaviours and attributes of a successful mentor, by comparison successful mentee behaviours are often neglected. I recently came across an interesting article in The Journal of the American Medical Association titled Mentee Missteps: Tales from the Academic Trenches which examines six potential missteps that mentees can take. The authors refer to these “missteps” as destructive mentee behaviours which can erode the mentoring relationship and negatively impact the mentee’s career. They describe these behaviours using the following light-hearted and novel mentee classifications:
1.THE OVERCOMMITTER – This type of mentee is unable to say no to a task or assignment from his/her mentor even when it is not aligned to the mentorship goals and objectives mutually agreed upon. By taking on more than he/she can handle, the mentee may ultimately be placed in a situation of non-delivery or a reduction in the quality of their output.
2. THE GHOST – This mentee will minimise or cut-off communication with their mentor in order to avoid confrontation or cover up their non-performance. This can severely erode trust between the parties.
3. THE DOORMAT –According to the authors, this type of mentee is “rarely noticed but often used”. They devote much time and effort to satisfying the demands of their mentor but receive little or no recognition or reward in return. The doormat mentee must be prepared to take action in order to avoid being exploited by their mentor.
4. THE VAMPIRE – This mentee is extremely needy and according to the authors, “drains the lifeblood of his or her mentor”. The mentee is very demanding of the mentor’s time and energy and is constantly seeking advice or guidance before making even small decisions or taking action. A mentee should always be respectful of their mentor’s time and mindful as to how they can act independently.
5. THE LONE WOLF – This type of mentee never asks for help and operates as if they don’t need a mentor. However, the appearance of competence and confidence is most often due to the mentee not wanting to show their uncertainty, insecurity and/or lack of experience. In these types of situations, the mentee is placing real limitations on the valuable guidance, knowledge and experience to be gained from the mentoring partnership. The mentee may also be potentially laying the groundwork for a colossal mistake.
6. THE BACKSTABBER – This mentee is not open to any form of criticism or constructive feedback. The mentee is unwilling to own his/her mistakes for fear of being seen to fail. Typically, they will blame someone else for their mistake. Sadly, the backstabber will ultimately be denied the opportunity to learn and grow from their mistakes and will also not engender the trust of co-workers and their mentor.
An awareness of these missteps, together with a healthy dose of EQ and self-awareness can help a mentee to establish and nurture a productive and mutually beneficial mentoring relationship. Ultimately, mentees who are able to assume responsibility for their own professional growth and development by clearly articulating both their personal and professional needs, establish goals and make decisions to achieve those goals and openly receive feedback will stand a much greater chance of avoiding the above mentee missteps