Career Advice

5 Signs You’ve Got a Bad Mentor

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It’s easy to pick out a bad boss from the crowd. In fact, most of us have had one—or a few—throughout our careers. But, acknowledging a bad mentor may prove more challenging.

In their February 2015 study, Chronus found 71 percent of Fortune 500 companies offer mentoring programs. Even with these helpful programs in place, it is still possible to be paired with a bad—or bad for you—mentor.

[Related: A 5-Step Plan to Effectively Mentor Your Employees]

So, how can you tell if your mentor isn’t the one for you? Here are five ways to know if your mentor may be leading you astray:

1. They speak negatively about your boss or other coworkers.

For the sake of sanity, everyone should have the opportunity to vent their frustrations about work. However, your mentor’s attitude may not be ideal if their negative comments are filling most of your meetings. A mentor should present positive experiences and see your time with them as valuable teaching opportunities.

[Related: How to Deal With a Bad Boss]

Coworkers with negative attitudes bring down the performance of others, says a September 2015 American Psychological Association study of 161 employees. Even if your mentor isn’t a coworker, imagine the impact their negativity can have on your career growth.

After meeting with a mentor, you should feel encouraged, rejuvenated, and motivated to jump into your goals. Leaving discouraged or with a negative attitude toward your company means an unhappy mentor may be dragging you down with them.

Find a mentor who speaks highly of their company and its leaders to lead you through a positive work journey.

2. Their recognition is hard to come by.

Good mentors know how to give both constructive feedback and encouragement to help you grow professionally. Even though their job is to provide guidance, some don’t understand—or weren’t trained on—the impact of recognition.

[Related: Here’s What a Mentor Can (And Can’t) Do For Your Career]

Consistently going above and beyond your duties without any form of positive recognition is wearing. This may be a sign your mentor is too busy to realize your efforts or doesn’t think acknowledging them is crucial—both of which make up for an ineffective guide.

When choosing a new mentor, look for someone who is quick to give feedback, tips on how to improve, and positive recognition for jobs well done.

3. They don’t feel the need to improve.

A bad mentor will honestly believe they have no room to improve. They might even constantly discuss how they could do a better job than the leaders of the company. This type of person isn’t just a bad mentor, they’re a bad employee.

[Related: 7 Types of Companies You Should Never Work For]

No matter how long someone has been in a position, there’s always room for improvement and continuing education — and mentors should be teaching this by example. Find someone who routinely takes the opportunity to learn through courses, webinars, and coworkers. Not only are these the advisers who will lead by example, they’ll have even more career knowledge to pass on to you.

4. You never see them.

You and your mentor should be checking in with each other quarterly — if not once a month — to determine your progress and answer any burning questions. Does your mentor often go silent or need to reschedule often? It might be time to begin searching for someone else.

As a mentee, it is possible to become overly-demanding. When you first meet with a mentor, come to an agreement on how and how often you’ll communicate. Whether it’s via email, phone, in-person, or video chat, the frequency may change over time.

[Related: 5 Steps to Finding a Mentor Who Isn’t Your Boss]

If an annual review is coming up, you may want to schedule extra time with your advisor. If you have questions throughout the month that don’t require immediate assistance, write them down and check in during your regularly scheduled meetings for answers and tips about your performance.

5. It’s difficult to connect with them.

There is a difference between a bad mentor and one who is wrong for you. For example receiving advice from someone who hasn’t been through similar experiences might not be beneficial.

On the same note, some personalities just don’t pair well. This doesn’t make your mentor bad or you a bad mentee. Rather, it may mean they have a different comfort level than you regarding certain career-related decisions, making it difficult connect.

When considering a new mentor, think about those who have traveled on a similar career path — or even someone you would love to chat with over coffee. Having a mentor with coinciding interests, personality traits, and career goals will create a level of comfortability that can take you to the next level.

TELL US: Have you ever had a bad mentor? If so, how did you know it was time to let them go? Tell us about it! @Glassdoor