What Everyone Gets Wrong About Mentoring Employees

By March 1, 2018 June 21st, 2023 Building a Better Team

Last Updated on June 21, 2023 by Dave Schoenbeck

The benefits of mentoring employees in the workplace are countless.  For starters, it helps newer employees learn the office culture and gives them a point person they can go to for feedback or direction when needed.  It also helps retain employees by assisting them to learn faster and feel confident in their work.

However, when mentoring is done wrong, it can do more harm than good.  According to The Atlantic, most mentorship programs are thrown together by people who have too much on their plates and have never been mentored, leading to mentorship programs that are out of touch with their employees’ needs.

A Boss mentors a younger teammate depicting What Everyone Gets Wrong About Mentoring Employees

Here are the 3 mistakes everyone is making when it comes to mentoring employees.

Mistake #1: Thinking Anyone Can Mentor

A mentor must impart wisdom, give advice, and help a newer employee integrate into the company culture: I’ve written an entire blog post about why this matters.  It might seem like any longtime employee could handle those tasks, but you’d be surprised: many mentors are overworked, disengaged, or unable to give mentoring their full attention.

Don’t just assume that any supervisor, including yourself, would make a good mentor.  It would help if you had someone honest, objective, fair, dedicated, a model of the company culture, and above all, enthusiastic about the project.

On the flip side, an employee you might have otherwise overlooked could make an incredible mentor.  Asking for volunteers is a great way to ensure your mentors actually want to be involved, but you should then evaluate the candidates to ensure they have what it takes.

Mistake #2: Sticking to Your Own Department

Many mentorship programs operate by assigning a mentor to a junior employee in their department.  This is fine, as the employee can talk to someone about their work and see their future career path.  However, sometimes it’s better to think outside the department.

Mentoring employees from other departments can benefit both parties, as you’ll experience different viewpoints and gain a deeper understanding of how the company works together as a whole.

As I said, some of the essential qualities of a mentor are enthusiasm and demonstrating the company culture.  Only considering mentors within the same department as the junior employee could prevent a genuinely stellar mentor from having the chance to shine.  In the Law of Empowerment, John Maxwell writes, “To lead others well, we must help them to reach their potential.”

Mistake #3: Relying on Tradition

Traditional forms of mentoring—such as an older, more experienced employee taking a younger, newer employee under their wing—might work for some. Still, it shouldn’t be your only approach to your mentorship program.

In many cases, employees can benefit from mentors close to their age, even if the mentor has slightly less experience in the workforce.  According to Forbes, peers can hold each other accountable and check each other’s work without worrying about a power imbalance in the relationship: it’s mutually beneficial.

Mentoring the next generation of leaders is our obligation as managers and leaders.  To learn more about mentoring the next generation, click here for a complimentary video coaching call.  I will help you with some creative ideas.

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