What can I do if I'm having problems with my mentee?

Problems between mentors and proteges can arise for a variety of reasons, including a mismatch in expectations or perceptions of the mentoring relationship, personality or work style differences, and faulty mentor-protege matching, among other causes (Johnson and Huwe 2002). If a mentoring relationship becomes dysfunctional, Johnson and Huwe recommend first of all to slow down and avoid responding impulsively: "As a general rule, the most productive and ethical responses to trouble with a protege follow a defined period of reflection, analysis, and consultation" (53). The other strategies provided by these researchers may also prove to be helpful if trouble arises:

  • Honestly evaluate personal contributions to a dysfunctional mentorship.
  • Consider ethical/professional obligations as a mentor.
  • Be proactive, cordial, and clear when communicating concerns to proteges.
  • Seek consultation.
  • Document your experiences and rationale.

In addition to the above strategies, we encourage graduate faculty with specific mentoring issues to first and foremost utilize existing departmental support networks, particularly by discussing the issue with your department chair and/or Director of Graduate Studies. Your fellow faculty and leaders in your department will be able to best understand your situation and direct you through the appropriate processes and procedures, if necessary. We also encourage you to seek consultation from the Mentor Advisory Board through theMentorConnect page on this site for less critical situations. While your own mentors and department leaders can often provide valuable advice and important insights about your unique situation, the Mentor Advisory Board may be useful as a resource specifically designed to respond to mentoring questions and concerns that can enhance your overall mentoring practice.