Professional Responsibility in the Mentoring Relationship
Providing mentorship to employees, often subordinates or lower organizational relationship individuals requires the highest order of due diligence and professionalism—with absolutely no comprise of professional standards.
The recent firing of an Air Force General Officer for an inappropriate relationship with a lower grade individual illustrates this example. This officer, according to media and internal Air Force investigation reports, provided “mentoring” to a married male/female military couple. The mentoring, according to all reports was satisfactory, until the General Officer began sending emails which were deemed by Air Force officials to have sexual connotations to the female mentee. The end result, after a lengthy investigation by Air Force officials was to remove the General Officer from his position and seek his immediate retirement.
These challenges are not unique to the military. Chief Executive Officers and other high ranking corporate officials are often found to engage in the same egregious behavior—with the same results—failing to meet company standards, being asked to leave the company, normally unceremoniously and rapidly.
The senior member in a mentor/mentee relationship is always responsible for conducting the relationship in a professional manner. Why the senior member? He/She is assumed to be more knowledgeable and experienced and should know and understand company rules, policies and procedures. After all, the “junior” mentee sought out the “senior” mentee for advice—knowing the company rules and regulations is one of the responsibilities.
Close emotional bonds often forms between mentors and mentees. Although these bonds can be close, emotions must be maintained at a high professional level at all times. Egos are often stroked and it “feels good” to have someone provide positive feedback and ego enrichment when, in many instances, a senior official is faced with a myriad of unpleasant and often distasteful problems that require resolution and answers. Well, all of that is part of being a senior corporate official— it is NOT all peaches and cream in the C suite. That is why senior officials are paid big dollars. However, do not ever let your guard down—if you do—bad decisions are often made and careers are prematurely terminated.