What If My Mentee Is Breaking Rules?

As a mentor, you build a relationship and a position of trust with your mentee. During the discussions, your mentee may reveal a range of things to you such as their ambitions, their concerns, their history, their expectations and more.

There may be a day when in the midst of those discussions, you become aware that the mentee (or someone they work with) is breaking organisational policies or rules.

As a mentor you have a responsibility to your employer to ensure the organisation is compliant with governance and legislation. You also have a confidentiality agreement with your mentee. SO you are now in a position of conflict.

What do you do?

  1. discuss with the mentee what is actually happening  – this will help determine if there is indeed an issue and ensure the level of the mentee’s awareness
  2. raise the incident as an issue with the mentee
  3. note that the area the mentee is from has responsibility to follow organisational protocols
  4. explain to the mentee that you are now in a position as a member of the organisation
  5. ask the mentee how best to handle the matter now – this is a great teachable moment and you can help them to think through the strategies and potential outcomes to arrive at a mutually agreeable decision

What ideas do you have for handling this dilemma?

Questioning 101

question[1]Generally speaking a mentor has a focus on asking questions rather than talking too much in a discussion. There will be a sharing of information and the meeting certainly doesn’t want to be an inquisition but a comfortable mix of questions, answers and input will lead to a productive session.

Many mentors are experienced managers and as good managers we often fall into the expediency trap and pepper our conversation with colleagues with closed questions – “did you”, “will you”, “have they’, “is it” etc. In our time-pressured environments, we’re sometimes only wanting to verify information rather than end up on long discussions.

In a mentoring context, closed questions can be really useful if you want to focus a discussion or control a conversation if your mentee is want to talk a lot or evade answering for example.

The old favourites “who, what, why, when, where and how” establish a round of open-ended questions which will also serve you well.  This questioning technique draws out more information, enables someone to give fuller answers and helps you to probe a little more deeply to identify issues or get the mentee to expand their thinking.

A word of caution: use the “why” question sparingly – it often puts people on the defensive and you’re not likely to want to go there in a mentoring relationship!

So, check in with the amount of questioning vs talking you are doing a in a mentoring conversation, and the type of questions you are using to elicit responses.