Decades of research has demonstrated how junior employees benefit from being mentored. Guidance from senior colleagues has also been shown to enhance mentees’ job performance and satisfaction. We know far less, however, about how mentoring might benefit mentors themselves.
We were interested in understanding how mentoring might help mentors who work in stressful occupations. Prior research has suggested that mentoring can improve the emotional health of mentees when a close, trusting relationship is established. We wondered if mentors would receive the same mental health benefits from the relationship.
Mental health is a serious and growing concern within occupations that play important social roles, such as medical professionals, firefighters, and police officers. And because policing is one of the most stressful occupations, with high levels of mental health and wellbeing difficulties, we conducted a longitudinal study of a formal mentoring program in an English police force.
The mentoring program was rolled out in 2013 in one of the police forces in England and Wales. It was designed to support the development of junior officers by giving them a way to discuss aspirations and concerns and receive guidance. Our study involved two parts. First, we conducted a field experiment: we compared the mental health of a treatment set of 17 mentor-mentee pairs that went through the mentoring program to a control group of 18 pairs of senior and junior officers that did not participate in the program. Second, we interviewed both the mentees and their mentors separately — 18 participants with 35 formal interviews in total. We asked mentors and mentees about their stress levels, what they liked about their job, how they coped with stress, and whether their mentoring relationship helped them with this.
Our experiment results showed that people who served as mentors experienced lower levels of anxiety, and described their job as more meaningful, than those who did not mentor. We learned from our interviews that mentoring afforded senior officers, as well as junior officers, a venue for discussing and reflecting on concerns. Mentors heard their mentees’ accounts of anxiety and realized these feelings — which they also shared — were commonplace. By acknowledging that these anxieties were common, both mentees and mentors grew more comfortable in discussing them and in sharing different coping mechanisms. Mentors often found their interactions with junior colleagues therapeutic.
Many mentors we interviewed also said they found mentoring enhanced the meaningfulness of their work. Senior officers described feeling separated from the daily policing work of junior colleagues. They talked about how long-term project management and meetings often prevented them from doing what they described as “real policing.” This meant that they were less able to see their impact on people’s lives. But they could witness more direct and immediate results by helping the junior officers they mentored. For instance, one senior officer stated “Doing this lets you do something important for someone and see the results fairly quick. You are helping them. They don’t always listen, but it is satisfying. More than a lot of what I have to do these days.” Another mentor noted how they were able to help their mentee navigate the process of taking on a new role and was able to see them thrive. This achievement helped him to realize how important his daily tasks were and how they could make a difference.
Why does mentoring have this impact on mentors? We believe it offers a way to receive support that is often lacking. Despite the pressures that comes with their roles — including abuse, difficult decision making, and the risk of death — police officers tend not to seek support from other officers, including more senior colleagues. This is to avoid negative stigma associated with mental health disorders. Mentoring thereby offered a way to build trust within a relationship that laid a foundation for open and honest communication of sensitive topics.
While our study relied on a small sample size and more work should be done on this subject, we believe that mentoring has the potential to support the mental health of mentors in other settings. Although the experience of being a police officer is distinct from many settings, the stigma surrounding mental health pervades many workplaces. There is also substantial evidence of effective mentoring generating trust between mentors and mentees, which supports the disclosure of personal information. As such, formal mentoring programs provide an opportunity to encourage the discussion of difficult and sensitive topics, which often remain undisclosed, and thereby normalize difficult experiences of stress and anxiety.
Of course, mentoring is an investment and the benefits are not always immediate. Work commitments can get in the way and prevent regular meetings, leaving some mentors and mentees unable to establish a personal connection, thus limiting the effect of mentoring on mental health. The mentors in our study said that the positive effect on anxiety, and the meaningfulness of their work, was reinforced as mentoring unfolded over time, through regular meetings with their mentees. As trust grew between them, so did the opportunities for sharing aspirations. By devising career and personal plans together and reviewing how they unfolded, the mentors and mentees’ interactions became increasingly valuable.
So if mentoring is to help mentors, organizations need to account for the resources allocated to mentoring and allow flexibility for those mentoring relationships to grow. Those that commit to mentoring might be surprised by the multidimensional benefits this practice brings.
Fuente extraída de: https://goo.gl/jmioTw