In this instalment we discuss the final two forms of


It occurs when the person has good intentions toward the other but there are psycho-social problems in the way they relate to another. The absence of malice, however, does not mean that the relationship is free from dysfunctional behaviour. Such relationships may be characterized by conflict, disagreement of judgment, or the placing of the other in binds. Binds occur when ultimatums are given or the person demands that the other make a choice. For example, a mentor that suggests that a female protégé should not have children to devote more time to her career is placing her in a bind in which she must make a choice between her career and her desire for a family. While such scenarios are not pleasant, they do occur, and despite the “good intentions” of such advice, the inherent problem in the relationship is the mentor imposing his own model of a successful career upon the mentoring partner resulting in serious stress and/or anxiety for the mentoring partner.


When problems in the relationship are related to vocational issues and one or both of the parties have good intentions toward the other, the result can be the “spoiling” of a potentially positive relationship. A good relationship gone sour is one in which some act of betrayal has occurred (perceived or actual). Such betrayal evokes emotions of disappointment in the other or of regret. The person who has been betrayed may regret investing so heavily in the relationship only to be betrayed by the other. Often such betrayal occurs because there were problems in the relationship that impacted the career of the emerging champion (vocational), yet were never discussed and dealt with openly. For example, a mentoring partner may feel that the mentor has been “stealing” his ideas and presenting them to senior executives without proper credit. The mentor assumed that the partner didn’t mind. However, resentment of this behaviour builds in the mind of the partner until he takes one of his ideas to another manager in the company, rather than the mentor. The mentor learns of this and feels betrayed, disappointed, and regrets developing the protégé. The result can be a spoiled relationship, when the mentoring partner’s inherent feelings of being taken for granted result in overt behaviour, perhaps even quitting the organization. Underlying the partner’s feelings of betrayal is a sense that he has not been treated fairly by the mentor. Such perceptions of violation of organizational justice (fairness) have implications for mentoring relationships. Spoiling may also occur when a protégé is mentored by someone not on the fast track in the organization. For example, one might be mentored by a person who falls out of favour with organizational executives. His emulation of this mentor may do considerable damage to his career opportunities. The intent toward the emerging champion was not bad, but the mentoring relationships had negative vocational outcomes, due to the mentor being on the wrong career track. This is another form of “spoiling”, even though the parties to the dyad may not be aware of it. A potential champion within an organizational setting should therefore assess the risk of collateral damage that may accrue to him through the choice of an organizational mentor.

A final form of mentoring dysfunction relates to sexual harassment or sexual undertones in a cross-gender mentoring relationship. The manifestation of sexual overtones within a mentoring relationship is clearly inappropriate and dysfunctional. The more intimate the potential mentoring relationship the higher the risk of this dysfunction. The history of both business and church is filled with sound relationships, which bred intimacy that ultimately led to sexual involvement. Any cross gender mentoring relationship should always bear in mind the fact that women are stimulated by words. It is therefore recommended that such cross gender relationships be either within group settings or within the context of transparency e.g. ensuring that there is either chaperonage or meetings are held in public and open venues.

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