Mentor, Schmentor

Mentor4Grace is an assistant manager for her company. She’s always looking for opportunities to improve her performance so that she can get promoted. She hears that Diane believes in mentoring young talent and asks for a transfer to Diane’s department.

At their first meeting, they set performance goals for Grace. Grace wants to take some management classes to prepare for promotion. She also wants more responsibility to prove that she can be a good manager.

Diane applauds her goals and immediately asks Grace to help train a new hire, David. Diane also encourages Grace to be “proactive” by volunteering for internal assignments as part of a strategy to get noticed by senior management.

So Grace volunteers to lead a team that will make recommendations for streamlining some of the company’s operating procedures. Her committee’s recommendations are forwarded by Diane to senior management. A month later, Grace reads an email from the company president that praises Diane for the committee’s recommendations.

Grace asks Diane why none of the committee members were mentioned in the president’s email and receives an evasive answer.  Grace concludes that she and her team will never be recognized. She decides to do all she can to help her committee members get recognized for their hard work. She’s already quietly mentoring three of them and helps two of them find places in departments away from Diane.

Mentor5She decides to not bail out herself because she believes she is in line for a promotion that is opening soon. The company has a policy that requires an employee to be in a position for at least a year before being eligible for promotion.

This morning Grace learns that David will get the promotion she wanted. She also learns that the company is supporting Diane’s nomination for an award based on her mentorship of younger women professionals.  Grace asks several female co-workers; no one knows who Diane is supposed to have mentored.

What should Grace do next?

  1. She can create a fake resume for David and send it to competitors in the hopes they will hire him, leaving her the promotion she deserves.
  2. She can accept that Diane’s nickname starts with a capital “B” and stop volunteering to do work for which Diane will steal the credit.
  3. She can recognize that her career advancement requires an internal transfer or a new employer.

The above scenario is a composite of the experiences of many women, and some men, professionals. Managers like “Diane” can tank morale faster than obviously rotten managers. A good HR program should include performance assessments that neutralize the toxic effect for a “Diane”.

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