“The problem is that inside a company, the personal mentor-protégé relationship undermines equal-opportunity, fairness-based promotion and development programs unless applied equally to everyone,” wrote leadership development expert David Marquet at Forbes.
With organised company mentorship programs gaining traction, he cautioned that the allure of guiding and protecting a subordinate in the workplace might create the image an “all-knowing and all-powerful mentor”.
Instead, he suggested four other ways companies can do away with an internal mentorship program without sacrificing its advantages.
Make it a leadership responsibility
Instead of thinking of mentorship as an ‘added value’, make it part of your job as a leader to mentor each and every one of your direct subordinate in the same way that providing feedback at performance reviews is your responsibility.
Get mentors outside of the organisation
You should allow and encourage your subordinates to seek a mentor outside of the workplace to help them advance their career and to prevent perceptions of unfair or discriminatory practices should they get promoted.
Put a time limit on the mentor-protégé relationship
If you do have an internal mentorship program you can’t do away with, put a 12-month limit on the relationship between the mentor and the mentee, he said.
“The mentor … has the responsibility to get the employee up to speed quickly but then sets them free,” he added.
Try getting them a ‘wingman’ instead
Instead of leaders mentoring their direct reports, try encouraging subordinates to get ‘leadership buddies’ or ‘accountability partners.
“This is a peer-to-peer relationship, self-organized, between two people who agree to check each other’s behaviour and provide unvarnished feedback. Since peers are unable to influence the advancement of peers, except in a very indirect way, this does not violate the fairness criteria,” he explained.