Here’s the bad news: It’s inevitable that a few mentoring matches won’t work.
The good news is, you can still intervene and everyone can still have a positive mentoring experience despite the rough start.
Let’s take a look at what you should do when a mentoring match goes wrong, including how to figure out what went awry, how to address it, and the next steps you should take.
4 Steps For Troubleshooting Bad Matches
1. Lay The Groundwork For Good Feedback
First and foremost, let participants know you are available and willing to listen to their questions and feedback whenever they have them—not just at the beginning, middle, and end of the program. This will allow them to bring up any issues or concerns when they arise, meaning you can interfere before anything becomes a serious problem.
Make sure you set a friendly and approachable tone in your communication with all participants so they feel comfortable opening up to you when they need to. This will increase their trust in your ability to help them out and resolve any issues.
2. Figure Our What Went Wrong And Address It Accordingly
When a mentor or mentee comes to you with a concern, don’t panic and re-match straight away. First figure out what went wrong: Was it a timezone issue? Was someone having trouble communicating in a second language? Did some other form of miscommunication occur? Has there been inappropriate behaviour that needs to be escalated? Was someone completely unresponsive (check for possible technical issues if so)?
Look for the answers to these questions and address those issues first before simply re-matching. Oftentimes, it’s simple miscommunication that leads to participants’ raising concerns about their mentoring partners.
3. Mediate Or Re-Match
If it has simply been a small misunderstanding, try and smooth it over; it’s still possible to recover from a bad start if both parties see that it might have been an innocent misunderstanding, or an issue stemming from something beyond their control.
If something more serious has occurred, close the relationship as amicably as possible.
Next, if using an algorithm or matching the participants yourself, check for similar issues (e.g. if it’s timezones or communication issues) before approving a draft match. If participants are matching themselves, guide them a bit so they can avoid the same pitfalls.
Document any concerns that arise so that you can avoid the same issues in the future. Can you have a location preference on your forms for those who really don’t do well with no face-to-face meetings? Can you include language preferences? Check to ensure your sign up process asks for the information you need to more smoothly match participants.
Ultimately, don’t feel bad if some matches don’t work out—this doesn’t mean you’re a bad Program Coordinator. Not everyone gets along and you shouldn’t be forcing any relationships that aren’t happening organically.
Furthermore, you can always intervene and make sure everyone still has a great experience in their mentoring journey no matter if the start was a bit rocky!