Sabotage is a form of mentoring dysfunction that manifests in typically three formats namely revenge, silent treatment and career damage. It occurs within a career setting when on of the partners has bad intent.

This occurs especially in situations where dependency develops. If the mentor is dependent on the mentoring partner, whenever the mentoring partner outgrows the relationship the mentor holds him back. For example in an organization where the mentoring partner is a subordinate of the mentor, the mentor may not recommend the partner for promotion or career enhancing opportunities for fear of losing him. When the mentoring partner finally realizes this, he resents the mentor and may engage the silent treatment behaviour. Resentment may build to the point where the mentoring partners seeks revenge on each other resulting in an abusive relationships. Whether revenge is taken directly (such as verbal insults) or indirectly (such as an attempt to damage the other’s career politically), the relationship has reached a level of intensity, which may transcend issues related to the organizational situation.

Natale, et al discuss the role of envy in mentoring relationships which can result in protégés cloning themselves into images of their mentors or the mentor blocking the progress of a protégé who is a “rising star” in the organization. I know an excellent gentleman who has successfully mentored many promising young men to success, but later ruined the relationships because of jealousy once the protégé succeeds past his mentor. His envy and jealous often left them with bitter memories of strife. Mentors or would be mentors need a strong sense of self-worth that enables them to rejoice in the success of their charges. The mentor stifles the protégé’s advancement. This is rife with mentors with an inferiority complex. They derive their sense of worth from being the “top dog”.

If the mentoring relationship is within an organisational setting, there is a likelihood of triangulation that may occur between a boss, subordinate and a mentor. Sometimes clashes arise as mentors try to protect their charges from “unreasonable boss” and end up interfering with departmental issues. It is also possible for a cunning protégé to create strife and conflict by manipulating the mentor against the boss.

Another form of sabotage may be deception. This manifests when either the mentor or the mentoring partner:

  • Manipulate information to result in compliance. For example some part of the information may be deliberately withheld so that the counsel given would just be an endorsement of a preset decision
  • Engage in ingratiatory behaviour – pretending to agree with the mentor to gain approval, flattery or self-presentation. These are benevolent acts of deception in order to influence or manipulate the other.
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  • Reply Nelson Ndlovu May 17, 2010 at 1:20 pm

    This is a tough series Doc.
    It is very clear now that mentoring relationships need to be entered into with the utmost care. They need to be Spirit led otherwise they can cause more damage than good.

    From what I am seeing it is not very different from choosing a wife/husband, because a wife/husband can either make or break you. Due to the apparantly socialy intimate relationship in mentorship the effects are generaly the same. And most of the time the people we think we know may have more skeletons than we can bear.

    I dont know if there is a section I missed, but are you going to or did you at some point discuss how to choose the right mentors?

    • Reply nurturingchampions May 17, 2010 at 1:51 pm

      Dear Nelson. Thanks for your comments. You know things that matter need a lot of intentionality and pondering over. The same with mentoring. These dysfunctions can be overcome by maintaining control over the relationship and not surrendering your right to draw the line. Even God send relationships can degenerate if there is no care taken to draw the boundary lines. Indeed we have not discussed the issue of choosing mentors yet. After we are done with the dysfunctions, we will consider that. Stay blessed. Doc

  • Reply Revolution Senda June 3, 2010 at 4:57 am

    This is a touching subject that sheds light on issues that many would rather not talk about.It is very true that some relationships end up being abusive .It is also true to say that many times it is because an individual fears the loss of top dog status so that he or she resorts to punitive measures that clip the wings of the bird ready to fly. Such a situation is indeed worrisome as it leads to stagnation of both parties. It kills the necessary relational aspect of the mentoring relationship so that it becomes more of a prisoner-warden situation that a father-son experience. Such is first degree suffocation that chokes the ethical values of existence.That is why l find this subject pivotal in creating a balanced people who will not fall into relations that grow them negatively.For this reason l salute you Dr Makoni for choosing to look at the story behind the story in mentoring relationships.That way l believe strong relationships can be built if practical remedies such as those articulated in this blog are administered.

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