|Mentors and Tormentors: A survey|
|By Joe Bouchard|
Many of us have observed division that originated from ineffective or malicious mentors. It is a topic about which I have been curious for some time. I believe that it a large and overlooked source of staff division in our vocation.
A few years ago, I presented “We don’t have to like each other. We just have to work together.” in Nashville at IACTP’s 21st Annual Trainers’ Conference. That long-titled program is essentially about recognizing and repairing staff division. As part of the program, I asked each person to voluntarily complete a survey about mentor and anti-mentors. They were asked six questions. The results follow.
Mentors are a very important component in the education of any corrections professional. These are the coaches who teach us the similarities and differences between the official ideal and the institutional real. An effective mentor serves as a clear map to the often confusing paths in corrections operations.
Yet, we tend to overlook the tormentor, or the mentor with less-than-pure motives. These Anti-mentors run the gamut. They can be manipulative, ham-handed, ineffective, and even malicious. Despite those differences, they all create an environment which cripples the mentee.
Who are our mentors and anti-mentors? From where in the corrections field do they come? Do Anti-mentors exist and do they operate with ulterior motives? Here is what some of our colleagues who completed the Mentors and Tormentors survey had to say on the subject.
One participant who answered “Programs” said, “My mentor was a senior staff member and as a new training officer needed someone to answer basic security issues. She was open and honest and kept me out of trouble that first year.”
One participant who answered “Other” said, “My mother has been mentoring me through assisting me through my developmental stage and at present.”
14% answered that a representative of all of these groups has served as their mentors at one time or another.
Here are some of the comments that accompanied the affirmative answer:
Surveys are certainly a manner in which to gauge an audience. But they can also show the many complexities in what appears to be a simple issue. Clearly, mentoring is not just a collection of altruistic staff that is willing to improve corrections through their experience and tutoring. There is an apparently large portion of mentors that are self-serving and dangerous to operations.
All is not lost, however. According to those who answered the survey, there are many different strategies to combat the problems posed by anti-mentors. Thanks to all who participated for helping to expand the base of knowledge in corrections. As corrections professionals, we should be aware of these and employ the methods as necessary. Staff unity is too important to ignore Anti-mentors.
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