Below is a summary of an interesting and insightful article from the MONITOR ON PSYCHOLOGY, April, 2019, pages 70-73. It is written by Chris Palmer (Staff Writer for the MONITOR) and is titled, HOW TO MENTOR ETHICALLY.
- Before becoming a mentor, consider the time, energy and emotional capital that you will need to support a trainee’s academic and professional growth.
- Mentoring can take many forms, including helping students choose coursework, overseeing research projects, providing emotional support and helping trainees build networks and find jobs.
- Even experienced mentors have to be honest with themselves about the limits of their mentoring capabilities.
2. MANAGE EXPECTATIONS
- Be clear with yourself and your potential mentee about the parameters of the relationship.
- Clarify how long the mentorship will last, how often you will meet, the amount of time you are prepared to offer and what is expected from the relationship.
3. BE INCLUSIVE
- It is ethically imperative to mentor diverse students, not just those who are similar to yourself.
- Cross-gender, cross-race and cross-sexual orientation mentoring relationships can be effective and productive.
- To reach out, attend conferences hosted by diverse organizations.
- Find ways to reach-out to the shy and/or underperforming students.
4. PROTECT MENTEE’S PRIVACY
- Create an atmosphere where a mentee feels safe to divulge fears, concerns and failures.
- Remain mindful that mentor-mentee communications are not privileged in a legal sense, nor confidential in the sense of psychologist-client communications.
- A mentor has a responsibility to register serious concerns about a mentee’s competence, both with the mentee and with clinical training leaders, if in such a setting.
- Ongoing discussions with your mentee about how you plan to protect privacy, while also insuring that competence concerns are addressed, may help mitigate any surprises for the mentee.
5. MAKE SURE THE MENTEE GETS DESERVED CREDIT
- If mentoring a dissertation or a thesis, the student should be the first author.
- If a mentee has a wonderful idea and the mentor is taking credit or writing a paper about the idea without including the student, it is potentially exploitative.
- Even when mentors give their hard-working proteges all the credit they deserve, there is a danger that mentees may be exploited in terms of the amount of work they are assigned.
6. MAINTAIN BOUNDARIES
- Avoid blurring the boundaries of the relationship and having it morph into the inappropriately personal.
- Avoid being a mentee’s friend, therapist or sexual partner.
- Warning signs for mentors include finding themselves thinking about and looking for opportunities to spend more time with the mentee and making very personal disclosures.
- Be careful not to abruptly withdraw and leave the mentee wondering if they did something wrong.
- Do not burden or confuse the mentee by sharing any feelings of personal attraction.
- Seek consultation with a trusted colleague, discuss appropriate options for keeping the mentorship professional and helpful for the mentee or, if necessary, devise a process for gracefully transferring the mentee to a different mentor.
7. MINIMIZE MULTIPLE ROLES
- A power differential may be problematic if the mentor also serves as an advisor, supervisor and/or classroom instructor. The mentor should ensure that other professionals fulfill these important roles in the education of a mentee.
- Mentors have an obligation to avoid engaging in multiple relationships that could impair their objectivity and thereby risk exploitation or harm to their mentees.
8. ADVOCATE BUT EVALUATE
- You do not want to overlook opportunities for development of the mentee if your mentee is experiencing problems.
- Mentors need to take seriously their responsibility to vet and prepare mentees for the sake of current and future clients and agencies for which they may be employed in the future.
- Intentional ethical mentoring requires self-awareness and a focus on the best interests of the mentee.
- Modeling ethical behavior in the context of a personal developmental relationship may pay dividends by inspiring mentees to care for the ethical commitments and aspirations of their profession.