What's your problem?

My mentor talks behind my back: Our company runs a mentoring scheme, which I was keen to join. I have regular one-to-one sessions with my mentor, supposedly in strict confidence.

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

We often discuss my uneasy relationship with my boss, who feels a bit threatened by me. Recently my boss has started mentioning things that lead me to think he and my mentor have been having indiscreet little chats.

Should I confront one or other of them and run the risk of looking like an idiot if I'm wrong? Or do I just stop seeing the mentor - who until now has been very helpful?

The part of your problem that I keep coming back to is where you say of your boss, he 'feels a bit threatened by me'. I wonder how you know this? It seems unlikely that he told you so himself; so it's either speculation on your part or your mentor has confirmed it.

What I suspect is going on here is a technical breach of the confidentiality assurance you were given, but probably with the most honourable of motives.

You say you find your mentor very helpful. It could well be that some part of that helpfulness comes from his sensing that the uneasy relationship between you and your boss is based on certain misapprehensions; and that the most useful service he can offer to each of you is the occasional insight into the other's beliefs.

So as long as your sessions continue to be helpful I'd be inclined to tolerate the odd suspected 'indiscretion'. You should avoid anything approaching a confrontation. You may want to think twice before confiding anything potentially explosive to your mentor, but in general you should try to preserve a constructive process, even at the expense of an arguably restrictive principle.

Jeremy Bullmore's responses to work dilemmas in MT are collected in his new book Another Bad Day at the Office? (Penguin, pounds 5.99)

Please address your problems to Jeremy Bullmore at: Management Today, 174 Hammersmith Road, London W6 7JP.

Or e-mail: management.today@haynet.com Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.

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