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Negative Mentoring

Aspects of Active Negative Mentoring and Their Manifestations

Lack of investment in, and respect for, mentee's career development

  • Squelches initiative or enthusiasm of mentee
  • Intolerant and disrespectful of mentee's research
  • Inhibits promotion of mentee
  • Disrespectful of individual boundaries of mentee
  • Gives negative feedback without positive constructive guidance

Places low value on need and responsibility for mentorship

  • Uses mentee's career to further mentor's career by taking credit for mentee's research
  • Doesn't give responsibilities or opportunities to mentee that are appropriate for career goals
  • Provides no support for independent effort by mentee
  • Excessive service responsibilities assigned to mentee
  • Overprotective of mentee
  • Selective mentoring of some but not all mentees
  • Uses mentee's lack of success as justification for continued misuse of mentee's time


  • Discourages meeting with mentee or does not keep scheduled meetings
  • Does not meet regularly with mentee to discuss course and direction of career


  • Inappropriate interpersonal and social behavior
  • Threatened by mentee's success
  • Perceives mentorship as negative for mentor's career
  • Destructive criticism
  • Participates in pitting junior faculty against one another
  • Defensive or negative about new ideas, especially those that might challenge prior work of mentor

Difficulty relating to persons on professional level

  • Avoidance or insecurity when working with opposite gender
  • Inappropriate, sexually oriented comments or behavior
  • Harassment of colleagues
  • Unable to deal with opposite gender without sexual overtones
  • Unable to see female faculty in other than a "helper" role

Aspects of Passive Negative Mentoring and Their Manifestations

Lack of advocacy

  • Neglects to protect mentee from inappropriate and harmful use by mentor or outside collaborators interested in absorbing mentee's individual funding into mentor's funding control

Unrealistic expectations leading to "guaranteed failure" of mentee

Abdicates responsibility for mentorship

  • Makes no effort to step in and correct the mentee's course when needed
  • Fails to encourage and advise mentee to complete, write up and present work
  • Neglects to identify and encourage mentee to apply for sources of independent funding early in career
  • Neglects to include mentee in "after hours" networking
  • Doesn't nominate mentee for invited talks, symposia, informal social events and meetings with external physicians or scientists

Lack of mentoring skills

  • Doesn't realize own limitations in specific areas of advising and gives bad advice

Devotes inadequate time to relationship

  • More concerned with own success on national level than within institution
  • Over-committed
  • Disorganized, lacks administrative skills
  • Frequently changes scheduled meetings


  • Not fully developed or secure in her/his career in mentoring role and  unsure of how to function as a mentor

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Last Updated: 07-15-2016
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