For a Successful Workplace Mentorship Program, Boundaries are Essential

By AIA Contract Documents

June 21, 2023

Establishing boundaries is crucial for mentors and mentees to maintain a healthy and productive relationship in the workplace. Creating boundaries, however, can be daunting and uncomfortable. Certain boundaries and norms may be set by the mentorship program, such as minimum time commitments, confidentiality requirements, and a willingness to share experience and advice, but many boundaries and norms are decided upon by the mentor and mentee. Additionally, it may be difficult to establish boundaries while working toward for the program’s ultimate goal – providing guidance and support for the mentee’s professional growth – while maintaining a standard of professionalism.

Here are 5 ways to structure expectations and form boundaries within a workplace’s mentorship relationship. These tips may also assist mentors and mentees establish norms to ensure that the program maintains a level of professionalism and is appropriate for the workplace.

  1. Clarify roles and responsibilities. From the beginning, clearly define the roles and responsibilities of both the mentor and the mentee. Explain that the mentor’s role is to guide and advise, rather than perform the mentee’s tasks. This establishes a clear understanding of each person’s responsibilities.
  2. Independent problem-solving. Mentees should feel encouraged to take ownership of their work and develop problem-solving skills. Rather than providing direct solutions, mentors can guide them through a process of critical thinking and decision-making. This empowers mentees to find their own solutions without relying on the mentor to do their work.
  3. Resourcefulness. Mentorship may involve teaching mentees how to access and utilize available resources effectively. Mentors may encourage mentees to seek out relevant information, tools, or expertise within the organization to support their work. This way, mentees may become more self-reliant and less dependent on the mentor for work related tasks.
  4. Align expectations for mentorship. Mentors and mentees should align their expectations as to what type of assistance may be sought from the mentor. Discuss what mentoring is not meant to include, such as therapy, formal education, or supervision. Also, a mentoring relationship may evolve and grow into a friendship. To minimize possible complications, a mentor may need to clarify when she is acting in the role of a mentor versus a friend.
  5. Foster accountability. Mentees should be encouraged to take ownership of their work. This may be achieved through establishing accountability mechanisms. By regularly reviewing progress, setting goals, and tracking performance together, a mentee’s sense of responsibility can be promoted. Mentees should also be reminded that they are ultimately responsible for their own work.

By implementing the above tips and establishing clear boundaries, mentors can create a balanced and effective mentorship dynamic that empowers mentees to thrive independently.

AIA Contract Documents has provided this article for general informational purposes only. The information provided is not legal opinion or legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship of any kind. This article is also not intended to provide guidance as to how project parties should interpret their specific contracts or resolve contract disputes, as those decisions will need to be made in consultation with legal counsel, insurance counsel, and other professionals, and based upon a multitude of factors.