Setting Boundaries in Mentoring Relationships
While it may feel awkward, it is important to discuss and agree on the appropriate boundaries of the mentoring relationship early on. When boundaries are too loose, they may be misinterpreted, and when they are too rigid, they can also incapacitate the relationship.
Everyone has different boundaries, from the degree to which one is comfortable with physical proximity, to talking about confidential issues, to the amount of time one wants to spend with a mentor or mentee, to the types of activities you will share.
Do take the time to talk frankly about what each of you expect to give and take in terms of time, as it will vary from relationship to relationship. Also, make sure that you are on the same page about how you prefer to interact. Questions below can guide you through this.
- Talk about your responsibilities, what you can and can’t do.
- Agree on frequency, duration and intervals of meetings/communications and how this will occur.
- Beyond agreeing to confidentiality, discuss what confidentiality actually means to each of you in various scenarios.
- What kind of access does the mentee have to you? What is the limit?
- Does being a mentor mean the employee has unlimited access to you for the duration of the relationship?
- Does communicating require an appointment?
- Prioritize how you wish to best utilize your mentor’s time and expertise.
- Know there are additional resources out there for you with regards to personal issues.
For personal concerns that may affect the quality of your work and family lives, the Employee and family Assistance Program (EFAP) provides confidential counsel.