Why You May Have a Bad Mentor

bad mentor

Do you have a bad mentor?

My son struggled with his statistics class last year. It was an advanced placement (AP) class, which is supposed to emulate college level coursework. He probably didn’t give it all of the attention that it required.

But another major factor was that the teacher didn’t appear to care. He was a coach of a sport in which my son wasn’t involved. But the teacher’s biggest issue was that he was more interested in showing his authority over the students than in teaching them.

He regularly reprimanded the students for whatever they did wrong, but rarely praised them for what they did right. He graded papers so long after they were handed in that students weren’t able to build on their learning for the next topic.

Before you start accusing me of teacher-bashing, I should tell you that my wife is a teacher in the same district. We both understand the trials and tribulations teachers go through. I’m aware of the lack of support – and the blame – teachers receive from parents. I tend to give the teacher the benefit of the doubt when our kids complain about a teacher. But based on unanimous reports from other parents, this guy is just a piece of work. He makes teaching about himself rather than about the students.

My son found another teacher in the school to help him. He learned more about statistics from the other teacher than from his own teacher.

I realized that we sometimes run into the same issue with managers in the corporate environment. As a default, we sometimes turn to the boss as our mentor. Someone fresh out of college or simply new to an organization may not feel he or she has many options for mentoring.

The mentor as a dumper

Just as teaching should be about the student, mentoring should be about the mentee. But sometimes someone in a mentor/coach role may have an ulterior motive. Some may want to offload their undesirable work on their mentee. They may market it as an effort to “teach” the mentee how that end of the business works. In reality, they’re just dumping their crap work on them

See related post: How to Be Mentored

The mentor on an ego trip

Like my son’s teacher, some managers get off on the ego trip of being in charge. Instead of mentoring their employee, they just want to manipulate their minion. You’ll do what I say because I’m the boss.  When I say to jump, you should simply respond with “How high?”

The lessons these types of managers, teachers and “mentors” teach is a negative one. It frustrates the victim. They may feel the desire to retaliate, but rarely have means without losing their job.

Just as people who are bullied become bullies, people who are mentored negatively like this carry on the tradition when they assume the role. They either think that’s the right way to do it or they feel it’s their turn to inflict their authority.

There is a trend toward changing the term mentoring to coaching. I like that idea because it implies the concept of encouragement and teaching. But changing the term won’t significantly change the approach of people who aren’t taught how to do it the right way.

How has the way you’ve been mentored affected the way to do it?

If you would like to learn more about mentoring between Millennials and Baby Boomers, get Lew and Jeff’s book The Reluctant Mentor on Amazon.

I welcome your questions and comments.

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