What to do when problems arise

Like any relationship, problems can arise in a mentoring relationship. The problems can range from minor (for example, scheduling difficulties) to serious (for example, a breach of confidentiality).

If a problem arises and you do not address it, the relationship will suffer. Of course, how you address the problem will depend on the nature of the problem and whether you believe the problem can be resolved.

Here’s a three-step approach you may find useful if you encounter problems in a mentoring relationship:

1. Identify the grounds for your dissatisfaction

For example, problems could be due to:
• Mismatched goals
• Mismatched expectations
• The mentee's reluctance to take ownership of his or her own development
• The mentee's reluctance to ask for help
• The mentor’s reluctance to be honest and candid
• Clashes of personality or style

2. Raise your concerns with your mentor

Though admitting dissatisfaction can be difficult, it can be helpful in a number of ways. For example, your mentor may validate your concerns, or provide a perspective that enables you to reassess whether there is a problem. Your mentor may suggest ways of changing the situation.

Your willingness to open up may bring you closer together and strengthen the relationship. If you feel unable to raise the problem with your mentor, consider finding someone else whose opinion you value and discuss your concerns with that person.

3. Assess whether you feel the problems are remediable

This decision will rest on whether you agree that there are steps or changes you, your mentor, or both of you can make that can reset the relationship and the likelihood that you, your mentor, or both will be able to make the necessary changes.