Answer to "Are there any situations where mentoring or a mentoring programme is not appropriate?"


Topic Editor: Sylvia Heeneman

As can be read in the previous questions, a mentoring programme is time and resource-intensive. This can lead to a situation where the actual mentoring programme can be viewed as not appropriate, simply because there is not enough time, or resources. The resulting mentoring programme is either of poor quality or will be poorly implemented. It is likely that these circumstances will limit or offset the positive outcomes reported in the previous question.

Mentoring processes can also be dysfunctional (Sambunjak et al. 2010). Ehrich and Hansford (1999) named this the ‘dark side of mentoring’. A dysfunctional mentoring process can be caused by ‘bossy mentoring’, competitiveness, taking advantage of the mentee, or structural problems—such as conflicts of interest and lack of continuity. In addition,  mentors can have preconceived ideas about the choices to be made by mentees, or demand that mentees meet only certain outcomes (Sambunjak et al. 2010). A dysfunctional relationship can also be caused by tensions in mentoring roles, e.g. when mentors also decide on students’ admission to research or residency programmes, or are an assessor of certain outcomes either in the assessment programme or a portfolio (Sambunjak et al. 2010; Bray & Nettleton, 2007). It should be noted that the mentee also contribute to the dynamics of the mentoring relationship, also if it is dysfunctional, and mentors can also be affected by the ‘dark side of mentoring (Feldman, 1999).



Bray L, Nettleton P. (2007) Assessor or mentor? Role confusion in professional education. Nurse Educ Today, 27:848-55.

Driessen E,  Overeem K (2013). Mentoring. In Walsh, K. (Ed) Oxford Textbook of Medical Education. London: Oxford University Press P: 265-284.

Ehrich L, Hansford N (1999). Mentoring: pros and cons for HRM. Asia Pac J Hum Resourc, 37: 92–107

Feldman D (1999). Toxic mentors or toxic proteges? A critical re-examination of dysfunctional mentoring. Hum Resourc Manag Rev, 9: 247-78

Sambunjak D, Straus S, Marusic A (2010). A systematic review of qualitative research on the meaning and characteristics of mentoring in academic medicine. J Gen Int Med, 25:72-8.