By Barry Sweeny, 2003


Discussing the Possibility of a Mismatch

When you are meeting with a struggling mentor-protege pair and you are discussing a possible mismatch, it’s important to remind them of the message that was given them when  the original match was made.

“Matching is a PROGRAM responsibility. We make each match by using the information we have at the time about what each protege needs in the way of assistance, and about what each mentor has as strengths for helping proteges. We do that so we can provide a mentor right away for every protege. We realize that this method means a few relationships may end up being a mismatch, and that, if that happens, the program has to assumes the responsibility for resolving it.”

Repeat that same message again, just before inquiring if the assistance provided the pair earlier has helped and how well the match is working now.

If the problems seem unsolvable, the mentor progra leader and the involved pair are the ones to decide that a match must be dissolved and a new match made.

Your objectives are several:

  • You want to ensure that the best support is provided every protégé.
  • You want to dissolve ineffective matches as early as possible, and create a better
  • You want to end inappropriate matches but without doing damage to the dignity
    of either party.
  • You also want to teach both the mentor and the protégé that the growth and success of a learner is the most important thing in your organization. It is so important that whatever time is needed will be spent and whatever difficulty
    must be faced will be resolved.
  • You want to avoid any sense that “mentoring did not work”, because that conclusion means the protege has not support thereafter. It was not a “bad” mentor, nor mentoring as a process or relationship that was the problem. It was the making of the match at a time when inadequate information was available to guide the matching. (“No fault”)

6. Actually Dissolving a Mismatch

To make sure that everyone understands the concepts explained above, say these messages explicitly during mentor and new teacher training and later again at the time when it is necessary to dissolve a mentoring pair. Do not assume that this important message was understood. Address it directly more than once.

When it becomes necessary to dissolve a mentor-protege match, the PROGRAM should own the problem, not the mentor or protégé. That’s part of what makes it a “no-fault” situation.

Describe the “bind” that the program is in regarding matching and explain why the program has to do what it has, even though it sometimes means that a less-than-ideal match is made and sometimes it needs to be remade later.

Even though you may have carefully studied the specific problems of this pair, your insights are limited by their own awareness levels of the problem, and by what they will be able to tell you. NEVER assume you have the full picture because that’s impossible.

If you assume that, you will honestly be able to say what you need to say. Here’s one way it can be said to a protégé and a mentor.

“When the program made the match originally, we wanted to do so as soon as we could. We did that because we believe that protégés deserve mentoring support from the very start. Had we waited until we had all the information we have now, you (the protégé) might of had no support all of that time. We believe that’s not right.

Never-the-less, this desire to make matches as soon as possible means that sometimes we don’t have all the information we really need for the optimal match. That’s why we check with every mentoring pair about this time to see how the match “feels”, and it’s why we assume not all matches will turn out to be appropriate.”

Regarding what a mentor program leader could specificallysayto a mentor
who is being removed from a mismatch situation, try saying…

” It would not be fair to you or useful for the protégé for our program to keep a mentor matched to a protégé who does not understand the need for the specific strengths and experience that you (the mentor) have to offer. That’s why we are seeking a different mentor for your protégé. When we can find a protégé who needs and will choose to benefit from your strengths and experience, we will certainly ask you to be a mentor again and to mentor that person.”

If you were the mentor being removed from a mismatch, wouldn’t you feel a lot better hearing that? Yes you would, because it assumes you are doing the best you can (you probably ARE) and it maintains your professional dignity.

Win – Win For All.