The Mentor and Mentee Relationship

“Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.”

-John C. Crosby

Regardless of whether they are seasoned leaders or entry-level workers, all business professionals can benefit from advice and counsel. Mentor and mentee relationships help individuals, at various stages of their careers, learn, grow and excel in their fields.

Develop a Mentor and Mentee Relationship

Mentors provide professional expertise and guidance to other individuals called mentees. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), mentors have two main functions: work-related coaching and development and/or serving as role models and supports.

A study published in Academic Medicine recognizes that successful mentoring relationships must contain the following elements:

  • Reciprocity between parties
  • Mutual respect
  • Clear expectations of the relationship
  • Personal connection
  • Shared values
  • A sense of altruism
  • Active listening

In contrast, unsuccessful relationships are characterized by:

  • Poor communication
  • Lack of commitment from either party
  • Personality differences
  • Real or perceived competition between parties
  • Conflicts of interest
  • A mentor’s lack of experience in his or her role

When a mentor and mentee develop a relationship, it passes through a number of phases.

  • Initiation stage. This stage is defined by two individuals who enter a mentor and mentee relationship. They traditionally meet through either professional connections or personal networking. Mentors often seek to mentor talented or “coachable” individuals, while mentees seek mentors who possess the sort of experience and connections they need to further their careers.
  • Cultivation stage. In the cultivation stage, the focus is on learning, development and growth. Examples of this might include:
    • Learning how to work more effectively
    • Completing challenging assignments
    • Increasing a mentee’s exposure within his or her organization
    • Mentee sponsoring
    • Giving and accepting general advice

This phase is particularly rewarding because of the interpersonal bonds that tend to form during this time. In addition, the mentee may give back, teaching the mentor about things such as new technologies, methodologies and any emerging industry issues.

  • Separation stage. At this stage, the relationship comes to an end. Amicable separations often happen because mentees feel as though there is nothing left to learn or they want to form their own identity outside the context of their mentor. Problematic separations occur if only one party wants to separate. This can lead to feelings of betrayal and anger.

In this final stage, the mentor and mentee may continue their relationship on redefined terms. If this stage is successfully navigated, the two can develop into amiable colleagues and even friends.

Types of Mentoring

The APA identifies three types of mentoring relationships:

  • Superior-status relationships. These relationships are categorized by the mentor holding a higher status than the mentee. Here, one party has the power to provide resources and opportunities to the other.
  • Peer mentoring. Here, peers provide support and share lessons with one another as their careers go forward. They are usually in similar positions and share the same developmental needs.
  • Subordinate mentors. Mentees may also sometimes seek out mentors who are considered subordinates or regular staff members at their organizations. This is done because these individuals are often considered more approachable than higher-up staff members.

Benefits of Mentorship

Mentor and mentee relationships hold many benefits. Some include:

  • Receiving help in achieving career goals
  • Guidance for making business decisions
  • Advice in the workplace on how to tackle challenging situations
  • Career and skill development
  • Ethical and moral guidance
  • Professional identity development guidance
  • Assistance in navigating professional settings, institutions and structures

Mentor and mentee relationships are an important and effective way to pass on knowledge within the world of business. Cultivating these relationships means that professionals gain the opportunity to grow and personalized guidance in their careers.

Connecting With Others for a Better Career

Understanding effective networking is a key proficiency for anyone in the world of business. For individuals seeking to develop as industry leaders, the online MBA from Husson University offers a relevant curriculum designed for students to go further in their careers. The program can be completed in as little as one year, fast-tracking students on the path to success.