my mentor gives me terrible advice and berates me when I don’t follow it

A reader writes:

I just graduated from college and am now in a full-time position in my field. I was assigned a mentor, John, who I worked with while I interned at this same company last summer. Last summer, he frequently made me feel overwhelmed by saying that I needed to complete all the projects I was given for the summer within the first month of my internship to make me look good. He would check on me multiple times a day asking if I needed any help with my projects, and say that if I did not complete them by the end of my internship, I was at risk of not being hired back as a full-time employee (for the record, barely any interns complete all of their projects each summer).

Now I’m a full-time employee on the same team and John is my mentor again. He has been telling me things during our mentoring sessions such as that “being a good employee is all about perception” and that I should never get management involved with work issues. He told me that even if I’m overbudget and behind schedule, I should lie to my supervisor and tell him everything is fine. He recently tried to add my name as a contact on projects that I had no participation in, again to make me “look good” for my performance review at the end of the year. I brought up to my supervisor that John had added me as a name on projects that were not mine, and my supervisor then talked to John. John called me today to berate me for talking to my supervisor, and that he had told my supervisor he was trying to get me involved “to boost my self-confidence” and that I was working against his efforts to “make me look good” to management.

I’m not sure what I should do. As a new employee, I don’t want to be perceived as “tattle-taling” to my supervisor every time I have a disagreement with another employee, but I’ve expressed my concerns directly to John who keeps brushing them aside, saying I don’t understand how companies work. I’m not sure if I should just ignore his horrible advice and continue on as normal since John is nearing retirement and could leave in a couple years, but it’s gotten to the point where I’m so frustrated after each meeting with him that I need to take a 10-minute break to cry (I’m working from home, which makes it easy).

Who’s in charge of the mentoring program and/or assigned you John as a mentor? Go talk to that person and ask to be assigned a different mentor. Say John is giving you bad advice and telling you to lie to your manager, and he has berated you for talking to your boss.

If you’re more comfortable talking to your manager instead, that’s a good option too. Just make sure that you give the same details you gave here, so that it’s clear how egregious John’s “advice” and behavior has been.

Frankly, in most cases, just being a personality mismatch should be enough to get a new mentor assigned (or at least to let you opt out of ongoing meetings with the current one). You shouldn’t need to “justify” your request with a litany of reasons. But because John’s actions have been so ridiculous, it’s useful to provide details, so you ward off any risk of being told something like “it’s important to learn to work with different personalities and hear different perspectives” — and also so they know John shouldn’t be assigned to mentor anyone else in the future.

It’s possible that you could just opt out of further “mentoring” from John on your own, without getting anyone’s permission — for example, just telling him that your schedule won’t allow it for the foreseeable future. But there’s a risk he’ll push back or your manager will hear you unilaterally dropped out of this mentoring program the company has provided, without understanding the reasons. So you’re better off letting her and/or the mentor program coordinator know what’s going on.

This isn’t tattling. Tattling in a work context is about trying to get someone in trouble for minor things that don’t really matter (like “Cecil was 10 minutes late today” or “I overheard Jane complaining about Rupert in the bathroom”). But when something isn’t petty — when it’s having a real impact on your, your work, or your team’s work — good managers want to know about it. This is something an even halfway-decent manager would want to know is happening.

And for the record, John’s advice to you has been uniformly terrible. Some of it (like lying to your manager to hide that you’re over-budget!) could get you fired. As for his assertion that you don’t understand how companies work — you understand them well enough to recognize his advice as atrocious. John is the one who’s out of sync.

Do not put up with this until John retires! (A couple of years!) Ask to be relieved of his “mentoring” this week.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 160 comments… read them below }

  1. Detective Amy Santiago*

    John sounds like a huge jerk, OP. Please share all of this with your direct supervisor and/or whoever assigned him as your mentor ASAP. Lying to your boss and taking credit for projects that you were not involved in will NOT make you look good to management.

    Honestly, it makes me feel like John is trying to deliberately sabotage you for some reason. Perhaps he is threatened by younger people who are coming into the workforce? Or is there possibly a racist/sexist/some other -ist situation at play?

    1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      I had a similar thought, is John in the mentoring program with the goal of getting “dibs” on the young female interns? And then he just gives awful advice to the ones he doesn’t want to harass?

      1. Cobol*

        It’s possible, but there’s no indication that’s the case. There’s enough going on here that I think it might be counterproductive to speculate.

    2. Naomi*

      I’m not sure which option is worse: that this is deliberate sabotage, or that John genuinely thinks this is good advice and applies it for himself.

      1. tangerineRose*

        Either way, I hope his boss finds out and fires John – you really don’t want someone like this on your team.

    3. Sylvia*

      If he’s not trying to sabotage OP and genuinely believes this stuff, how did he even get to his position?

      1. Genny*

        Maybe he’s one of the small handful of people for whom “gumption” and other bad job practices work who don’t realize that they’re the exception, not the rule?

      2. AKchic*

        Different era and the “good ‘ol boy” network. I give you Alaskan state jobs as a prime example. And oil admin jobs (especially executive ones).

      3. Arvolin*

        Perhaps the company doesn’t want their best employees taking time to serve as mentors, so John was there, experienced, and expendable? Maybe they have no other role for John, want to get some use out of him, and don’t want to fire him shortly before retirement for personal or sentimental reasons, or because he was instrumental in the company’s success in the past?

      4. Autumnheart*

        He told OP how he got there! He lied to management about being over budget and behind schedule, added his name to projects he didn’t work on, and did whatever he could to “look good to management” as opposed to doing his job well. Guess it worked. Sounds like the instruction manual on “Leveraging Male Mediocrity For Success”.

      5. Triumphant Fox*

        Apparently by lying to his managers, fake involving himself on projects he does not contribute to and badgering those beneath him. If he’s treating an intern like this, I can only imagine the tactics he uses for his direct reports.

    4. MenteeLetterWriter*

      John has basically adopted me as one of his own grandchildren. I’ve met his family and his wife. I don’t think he’s deliberately trying to sabotage me — ever since I’ve been assigned to him as a mentee, he’s told me that he’s trying to help me be the best in my field before he retires. But other people within the company have asked me how he is as a mentor. He has a reputation in the team as living in his own world, and saying some weird things about management that make no sense. But he’s so technically competent that I believe that’s why I was assigned to him.

      1. Archaeopteryx*

        Tell people exactly what he’s been telling you to do. Don’t just say that he gives a poor advice, specifically tell whoever asks and whoever is in charge of him that he is instructing you to lie to management.

        1. tangerineRose*

          Yes. This!

          At the least, he shouldn’t be a mentor.

          I’m curious about how much he takes his own advice.

      2. I edit everything*

        So it sounds like your going to whoever directs the mentoring program won’t necessarily be surprised to hear that he’s not the best mentor. That’s good. You’ll be given credence and understanding, since he’s already recognized as an odd duck.

      3. Sylvia*

        I believe you when you say he isn’t trying to sabotage you. He sounds like one of those people that would have been fired long ago if he didn’t have such a valuable skill set. Because of that, people begrudgingly keep him employed. You can remain friendly with him, but you can’t let him mentor you anymore. He’s not giving you good advice. In face, whether it’s intentional or not, his advice could be actively harming you.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          My dad wouldn’t be this aggressive but he would absolutely be out of touch enough to give advice almost this bad despite genuinely wanting a mentee to do well. He also had a reputation at work (he’s retired now) for being very technically adept but not the best people-person.

          1. Dust Bunny*

            He could also be patronizing and arrogant enough to overstep personal boundaries (in a nonsexual way), make assumptions based on age, race, regional origins (both foreign and within the US), etc. and honestly not think he’s doing that.

            1. Lizzo*

              Are we related? Because that sounds a lot like how my dad would probably behave in this kind of situation. :facepalm: So. Many. Facepalms.

      4. High Score!*

        Yeah, I once had a mentor “adopt me”, introduce me to his family and then tried to force me into an affair. I dam near punched him but our manager walked in and I pulled the punch. Still regret that. We didn’t have harassment laws back then.
        The dude is a jerk. “Adopting” younger employees is patronizing and needs to stop. Keep everything professional and don’t him ruin your career.

        1. MenteeLetterWriter*

          OMG that is crazy! I’m sorry that happened to you. Thank you for your advice. I kind of accepted the “adoption” since he’s old enough to be my grandfather and has good intentions, but you’re right! It is patronizing.

          1. Ashley*

            Think about all those letters about how we are a family, and work boundaries. While it can be kind it is often more problematic then not.

          2. Sara without an H*

            I question the idea that his intentions are good. At the very least, the man has serious boundary issues. Brief your manager ASAP and set some boundaries with your volunteer “grandfather.”

          3. old curmudgeon*

            Old fools have young ideas all the freaking time. I don’t care how avuncular he portrays himself; I’m betting he’s grooming you for a pass. And the sooner you send up that red flag, the safer you’ll be.

          4. Amaranth*

            I’m not a fan of having familial-type relationships at work, because it can really complicate professional decisions. But please take an objective look – because you don’t say you spend tons of time with his family outside of work, you’ve just met them. So this isn’t sounding like welcoming you into the family and giving you a local support system. And ‘taking a (grand)fatherly interest’ is often code for patting ‘pretty young things’ on the head whether grooming or just patronizing them.

      5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Yeah I didn’t get the sense he was sabotaging you, I get the “old timer-gumption-it-worked-for-me” vibes wafting this direction. Thank-God you realize he’s out of his ever loving mind and that this is bad advice.

        1. CupcakeCounter*

          Same. The reality is those things probably DID work at one time if you were a) white b) male and c) have something significant in common with the upper management person(s) you are trying to impress (such as graduating from the same Ivy League university/pledging the same fraternity/membership to the country club).

            1. Alli525*

              This was exactly my thought.

              “I took the form of a 45-year-old white man for a reason. I can only fail up.” – Shawn, The Good Place

                1. Sacred Ground*

                  Oh to be a middle aged man with a job, instead of being me, a middle aged man without one. Or savings. Or a home. Or a family.

                  Is this what failing up looks like? Because it feels like just ordinary failure.

          1. Observer*

            No, lying to your manager tends to get you fired. And in his case, it looks like people know that something is off but they are trying to work around it because of his technical skills.

            1. PenicilliumIHardlyKnowEm*

              He might have been good enough about the lying early on that he built a reputation for good work and people didn’t feel like getting involved when they realized that at least some of it was faked. As long as he didn’t reach too far or step on the wrong toes, I could see his lies being seen by some as “harmless” and that he was just a bit odd. If this benefit of the doubt was extended equally to employees of all backgrounds I wouldn’t hate it so much.

        1. Why isn’t it Friday?*

          Yeah, hard agree. Adopting you as part of his family is kind of inappropriate and weird. Alison talks all the time about how a workplace is not a family and should not be treated as such (for good reason). John’s advice is so bad that I think you should get yourself removed as his mentee, OP.

      6. irene adler*

        Maybe management is hoping you’ll absorb John’s technical knowledge so they can function without him at some point-if you know what I mean.

        Have to say, ““to boost my self-confidence” – if John actually did say make this statement to your supervisor- should have prompted inquiry from your supervisor. Not sure mentoring is supposed to involve the mentee self-confidence aspect. There is a boundary your supervisor should verify it is not crossed.

      7. Kyrielle*

        Honestly, I wonder if the retirement plus your last sentence is how come he finally has been asked to be a mentor – you mention elsewhere that he hasn’t recently. They may realize there are problems there, but not the scope of them, and have assigned him someone new that he didn’t already think was “incompetent” as you mention him talking about others being. They may be hoping to siphon off some of his knowledge before he retires. And for the technical knowledge that may be a good thing! But for the rest…aie. :/ I won’t add to the excellent advice you’ve already been given, but you have my sympathy, this is not a fun position to be put in.

      8. Artemesia*

        I think you need to have a frank talk with your own supervisor about the goals of the mentorship and precisely what concerns you about this one. And then ask to be re-assigned but also explore with your boss how to avoid blow back on this one. I suspect he is viewed as weird and that is helpful BUT then why do they have this guy in a mentorship program (years ago I met a professor professionally at a conference who seemed fascinating and had wonderful stories about his work with Bobby Kennedy and at the UN and etc etc etc until it became kind of clear he was ‘off.’ I found out that yes, he was quite disturbed and had a sort of Walter Mitty life that he babbled about and so they had pretty much moved him out of advanced classes etc — BUT they had put him in charge of Freshman advising in their department because no one else wanted to do it. It always struck me as insane.

        to put someone this off in a mentorship program is pretty terrible. Any chance you could be assigned a female mentor which might be a ‘reason’ to give the terrible mentor — ‘oh we thought she would benefit to see how women negotiate their careers in the company.’

        1. Essess*

          Management also needs to know that he believes that lying to management is the right thing to do and take a closer look at his own work record.

      9. Green great dragon*

        Multiple other people have asked how he is as a mentor? Sounds like multiple people were expecting problems.

      10. AKchic*

        It sounds like the times have changed, but he hasn’t changed with the times. Whatever handshake deals and casual fudging of facts that could be fixed before it got to be “big problems” that were acceptable in the 70’s-90’s when he was probably in his heyday are no longer acceptable, and instead of adapting and rolling with the punches, he has doubled down and not only continues his behaviors, but is trying to make his mentees complicit with his “old school” ways, and also tries to push them harder (so he can then ease up a bit and get away with the right amount of fudging that he was used to getting away with previously).

        It’s manipulative and maladaptive behavior and you’re going to need to be very careful about this one. Since he has taken you so closely under his wing, you can use that to your advantage. You’ve become friendly with him, and you feel compelled to branch out a bit for other professional perspectives, rather than a paternal one. Yes, go to him for advice once in a while on the technical aspects if it makes sense to do so, and continue to be friendly with him if you feel the desire to, but do talk to the mentor program and your own manager about switching mentors and why you want to.

      11. Hills to Die on*

        This is good context! A crazy manager once adopted me as his mentee (I.e., told me he was mentoring me and that was that), and then was completely, openly disappointed when I told him I was 38. He was the worst and not someone I would ever ask for professional advice.
        Anyway, is it possible that you can steer the conversations to strictly technical discussions – those things he is good at – until you break free? I would still focus on getting away from him as a matter of political perception, but it might be nice to get whatever knowledge you can from him while redirecting his crazy ideas until then.

        1. Hills to Die on*

          And not just a matter of perception – he is definitely bad at this. I just meant you do not want people associating you with him.

      12. Hey Karma, Over Here*

        This makes so much more sense. I imagine if you look at his kids’ (and grandkids’) email Sent folder, you will find something along the lines of:
        Dear Alison,
        My (grand)dad is an engineering genius. He has the respect of all of his peers and many up and coming people in the field. He is a nice guy who wants to help. BUT…he has the most absurd “us v. them” mentality about the workplace. He constantly tells me NOT to communicate with my supervisor and if I have to, I should just tell her what she wants to hear. Granddad thinks I should ask senior people in my department to put my name on projects that I’m not working on so that I will look good to management. (And of course, lie when they ask me about it.)
        He won’t take no, thanks for an answer and in fact will berate me if I tell HIM the truth, for example, that I talked to my supervisor about a deadline I was going to miss.
        How do I lovingly ask him to stop?
        Killing me with Kindness.

        Quick answer, you don’t. You just don’t talk about work with him.
        But since OP works with him, that’s harder. Definitely bring this to your supervisor and end this mentorship. It really will mess you up in addition to wasting your time and emotional energy.

      13. Mama Bear*

        I had a chat with a new intern today. He said he isn’t being managed by one of our employees because that employee is his neighbor and they don’t anyone to think that the neighbor is favoring the intern. I think that’s a good idea. In our company, family members and close friends do not manage each other. If you are already socially involved with John, then I think you need to request a new mentor that isn’t deeply connected to you. If other people are asking how he is as a mentor, then they may be thinking (rightly so) that he’s not doing such a good job.

        Regardless of his grandfatherly relationship with you, he’s giving you terrible advice. He might be trying to use you as his own leg up, but no one who is on the up and up would add people to a job that isn’t theirs. If you do contract work and get added to a project where you don’t belong, that might be a problem for you later. John’s reaction to you talking to your boss is misplaced against you – he’s ‘s just mad he got caught. No one who is really looking out for you will tell you to lie, cheat, and pretend to be something you are not. His career may be a house of cards. Don’t fall with him.

        Technical competence has little to do with good management or good mentoring. Some people are not cut out for it. I’d ask to change, for many reasons. I’m sure he will be mad, but you need professional space from this guy.

        1. JM in England*

          Totally agree with the first paragraph. In the workplace, it is essential to avoid even the APPEARANCE of a conflict of interests.

      14. ToS*

        If he’s wonderful in technical competency, your best feedback may be that he’s ill-suited to having other mentees as a one-on-one. He’s better for lunch-with-another who can follow up with, yeah, back in the dark ages when it didn’t take .1 seconds to verify details, that might have worked, but the best practices nowadays are…

      15. SometimesALurker*

        Kudos to you for recognizing that what he’s saying is wildly out of line with norms! It can be hard for early-career professionals not to second-guess what they’ve learned elsewhere about workplaces when in your position.

    5. Important Moi*

      I don’t think it is sabotage. I think it is warped logic. One must lie to management so you are never associated with a problem. Doing this makes you look good management. Over budget? Missed a deadline? Don’t get along with someone? Don’t tell management ever, they’ll view you as a problem and will want to get rid of you as a possible. Handle your problems without management! Nose to the grindstone.

      Actually, I am familiar with this warped logic. I’ve found it to be practiced by people who inflate their capabilities and duties to make them look good to management. It never occurs to them to tell the truth. I’ve found these folks lie about non-work related stuff too.

      Lying to your boss and taking credit for projects that you were not involved in will NOT make you look good to management.

      1. Autumnheart*

        It definitely won’t make you look good to management, once management includes the people whose projects you lied about being on.

  2. Librarian of SHIELD*

    The fact that John was assigned to mentor anyone at all is worrying to me. It makes me wonder if the mentorship program at this company does any sort of vetting at all for potential mentors.

    OP, you should definitely talk to your boss and/or the mentorship coordinator to explain what’s happening. If this is the advice John is giving to the people he mentors, it puts up some very worrying red flags for his behavior as an employee, and for the behavior of any other employees he may have mentored before you came along. This is not a “go along to get along” situation. This is something that the leadership at your company absolutely needs to be made aware of.

    1. Kalora*

      In the organizations I’ve worked at, these mentoring programs basically will take ANYONE who volunteers as a mentor because they never have enough volunteers. At a prior employer, a person on a PIP was allowed to join as a mentor and was giving his mentees terrible advice right up until he was walked out the door. Unfortunately, my best mentors over the years have not come from programs like this but instead grew naturally over time. It’s a great idea that is often terribly executed.

      1. Hey Karma, Over Here*

        Because the people who would be good at it either underestimate themselves or they realistically estimate the time and effort it involves to do a good job. It’s a shame, but that’s the reality. You get a lot of people who think like John, too. “This will look good to management.”

      2. LQ*

        I’m deeply suspicious of any formal mentor program. So often it’s an excuse for the “mentor” to get out of work, blather on about themselves, or puff up. Occasionally it’s someone with genuinely good intentions. And then sometimes these formal programs are used to specifically identify under-represented populations and you get this horrible set up where you are setting people who are already under-represented up with something that’s supposed to help but then is deeply negative on their careers. Meanwhile, the people who set it up all pat themselves on the back and say look at how much we are doing for diversity.

        I also think places with formal mentorship programs are less likely to have people go out of their way to try to unofficially mentor people and you get a lot of alike mentorship leading to less diversity. At least that’s what I’ve seen.

        1. MassMatt*

          I went through a (voluntary) mentor program at a large company where the mentors were well-vetted and there was some matching of strengths and goals between the mentors and what the mentees wanted to get out of it. I’d give my experience a strong B, someone else in my division thought it was the best professional experience she’d had in years.

          There needs to be some recruitment and screening of participants, especially the mentors. Having a mentor on a PIP? OMG no.

    2. singularity*

      I thought the same thing. If John is this out of touch, what does it say about whoever is running the mentor program or the supervisors for that matter? If this is how John has been succeeding all these years and no one picked up on it and they just let it happen, it seems like a worrying trend for that company.

    3. Troutwaxer*

      I’m guessing that everyone knows that John doesn’t have a single clue about how management thinks, but he’s really good technically. So you’re his mentee for purposes of learning technical stuff rather than learning the company culture. So go with the tech.

  3. OrigCassandra*

    OP, I wonder if John is trying to make you be a pawn in a misguided, counterproductive game of chess he is playing with his colleagues and/or his management. Does John gripe about his jobs, colleagues, or managers? Those may be the parties across the chessboard. Do those gripes sound well-worn? Then John may have been playing this absurd game a long, long time.

    Alison’s advice should help you if this is part or all of the root cause of John’s frankly mystifying and appalling behavior… but there’s a chance that the way this is working is that John gets tossed interns and new employees (much like tossing Daniel to the lion) to keep him out of other people’s hair. If that’s the case, and if it appears that nobody wants to help you because then they’d have to face the wrath of John, one way to finesse it would be to tell whomever you approach that you feel you are ready to “graduate” from John’s mentorship. It’s such a reasonable request that even the most avid John-avoider will have trouble finding a reason to say no to it.

    Good luck, and please update us, OP. Your job shouldn’t be making you cry.

    1. Elliott*

      I was wondering that, too. It’s hard to know what John’s thinking is, but he sounds like someone who might have a pretty adversarial relationship with his job and colleagues. He’s treating this like some sort of weird game.

    2. MenteeLetterWriter*

      Thank you so much! He does gripe about managers and colleagues a lot, especially their technical incompetence. The funny thing is I was the first intern he’d had in many many years.

      1. OrigCassandra*

        That’s… actually another warning sign that John is a poor mentor and quite possibly a poor employee generally. Workplace etiquette is generally that one doesn’t throw new employees head-first into gripe sessions or vendettas.

        I wouldn’t bring up the griping with whomever you end up talking to, as it’s not a direct hindrance for your work the way his horrendous advice is — just know that it’s another sign that your instincts about John and his mentorship not being good for you are correct.

      2. Hey Karma, Over Here*

        Because the person running the mentor program has changed and the new person didn’t get the full history of why we don’t ask John to mentor people anymore…

  4. MenteeLetterWriter*

    Hi Alison, I’m the LW! Thank you so much for your advice. I never thought that his comments to me could be grounds for switching mentors! I’ve been worried about creating an upset within my team by doing this, especially since my mentor is so technically competent in our area of work, so I know I’ve probably been assigned to him because of that. I will definitely talk to my supervisor and make him aware of the conversations that my mentor and I have been having during our sessions.

    1. Lance*

      Has his technical competence benefited you so far? If so, there might be some way you can focus him on that alone, and leave everything else to your boss. I’m not sure how well it would go — even then, you’d probably be better off with a mentor who has the competence and not these destructive suggestions.

      1. MenteeLetterWriter*

        Yeah, it has. He’s incredible knowledgeable and intelligent, just he can’t be trusted with any other information he gives besides that.

        1. nona*

          I think this is good info to give to whatever program. Maybe they can give you a Technical Mentor (John) and a Personal development/soft skills Mentor (somebody) else.

          And then they (or you, depending on comfort level) can say – “oh yeah – Patty is also helping mentor me on some of the office relationship/working world stuff, so she’s given me some good guidance on X. I like having a couple mentors because it’s helping to build my in-company network” and steer the conversation back to the technical aspects he’s good for. He might be worried, you don’t have anyone else talking to you about the other stuff and is therefore trying to help cover those topics (even though he isn’t good at them).

          1. tangerineRose*

            “Maybe they can give you a Technical Mentor (John) and a Personal development/soft skills Mentor (somebody) else.” Yes, this.

          2. NRG*

            We have different kinds of mentors at my work for exactly this reason, kind of in reverse. The usual business-type mentors were not helping junior technical staff in the way they needed. So we have tech mentors and “network” mentors. Kind of too many mentors, actually, but they try.

          3. kt*

            Yes, exactly this, and you could use this as phrasing too to avoid rocking the boat too much in ways you don’t want. “Dear manager, I’ve found John to be a really wonderful technical mentor. I’d also like to grow in terms of understanding our field’s professional norms and soft skills and was wondering if you could connect me with someone you particularly feel exemplifies those skills” or something.

            1. Six Feet Under Par: A Chip Driver Mystery*

              I still think LW needs to have a clear conversation about John’s, ahem, limitations. His actions like false credit could blow up in LW face and it would be better to have raised that as a problem before it looks like an excuse

        2. Mama Bear*

          So maybe you can be assigned to work on a team project with him (and others who can benefit from the tech knowledge) but not be his mentee anymore. Gleaning technical expertise is great, but a lot of his professional advice is bad and your instincts are right to question it.

        3. Troutwaxer*

          I’d say you should discuss that with your manager as well. Discuss what John is and isn’t good at, and ask to keep John as a technical mentor.

    2. Observer*

      Be very clear that John is actually asking you to lie to Supervisor. They might not care about John giving generally bad advice or put the onus on you to “work it out.” But this issue makes it THEIR problem, which is a plus for you.

    3. Sylvia*

      There’s nothing wrong with asking to change mentors just because you aren’t clicking with them, but I definitely think you need to let people know that John is telling you to deliberately lie, among other things. He is advising you to be unethical, and someone needs to step in before he goes on doing this to someone else.

    4. Librarian of SHIELD*

      I’m so glad you decided to talk to your supervisor about it! Be super honest in that conversation, and make sure they understand all the strange and troubling advice John has been giving you.

      Also, please know that if your talk with your supervisor ends with some sort of disciplinary measures for John, that is not in any way your fault. John’s behaving in some really troubling ways, and if he’s disciplined for it, it will be his behavior that caused it.

      1. MenteeLetterWriter*

        Thank you. I’m honestly scared to bring it up, but everyone’s encouragement is giving me courage. As a new employee, I’m afraid to rock the boat a little bit.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          You’re not rocking the boat. You’re asking for what you need to succeed as an employee.

          You are not creating problems. You are not “tattling”. You are not “getting John in trouble”. Or anything negative that you may be feeding yourself in terms of trying to be a good-whipping-person.

          Having a mentor program is be BENEFIT you and the company as a whole, it’s there because it gives you the opportunity to grow and become a well-trained and rounded employee, that in turn benefits the company. It’s not just to watch you squirm and suffer! It’s not a hazing program.

          They need to know where it fails them so they can fix it.

          1. tangerineRose*

            Also, John shouldn’t be allowed to berate you over stuff like this and probably not about anything – a decent manager can tell you nicely when you’ve done something wrong (which you didn’t do).

            And contrats to you for figuring John out when you’re still so new!

            1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

              100% this.

              I’ll eat someone’s face if they were set up to be a mentor and were acting like a prick, tbh. If you don’t want to mentor, let me know, don’t take it out on the newb!

        2. OrigCassandra*

          This is such an obvious problem and it’s so specifically tied to your new-employee status that I wouldn’t be concerned about boat-rocking in your shoes. As Alison so often says, if you approach it in a collaborative problem-solving spirit, you won’t come across as a complainer or a boat-rocker.

        3. OtterB*

          I think you can soften it, if you want to (but you don’t have to!) by making it clear that you’re finding his technical advice useful but that his organizational and career advice is highly problematic (with details, as people described before). Advice on how to operate within the company and advance their career is the main thing people want from mentors, but if there’s some way to label John your “technical consultant” and get assigned another genuine mentor, that might be a good outcome.

        4. Artemesia*

          Is there any way you can focus on technical skill with him and his advice on that and just ignore the rest?

        5. Hobbit*

          You can do it!! We believe in you!

          You may want to practice your talking points with a trust friend or someone not connected with your company. I know it’s hard to be the new guy/girl. But this John is wwwaaayyy off course in what he should be doing. Even if he doesn’t mean you any harm, that exactily what’s happening.

        6. Not So NewReader*

          People already know that is why they are asking you how the mentoring is going.

          I had a boss ask me one time if I had x problem with a certain coworker. He already knew the answer. I said yep, and that I handled with y method and got the desired results.

          This guy may be brilliant with the work, but he’s average or less with any other advice. I’d get out of the situation entirely. The reason is it’s hard to know where the exact line is, maybe he is telling you things about the work that is wrong/dated/whatever also. Not always, but many times I have found that the person who messed up advice repeatedly in one area was actually getting the advice wrong in other areas also.
          My vote is to ask for a new mentor.

        7. AnotherJD*

          You can use some of Alison’s framing language when talking to your boss if it makes you more comfortable. It’s not tattling, it’s asking for advice. For example: “Mentor mentioned that I shouldn’t loop you in if I’m over budget or behind schedule on a project. That didn’t sound quite right to me, but because I’m new employee, I wanted to run that by you.”

          1. Allonge*

            I would put this much stronger: instead of does not sound quite right, say I strongly disagree and would not do that. This is not a matter of opinion, it’s wrong, bad advice. Even newbies should / can know that

        8. Jolinar of Malkshur*

          It doesn’t sound like this “mentor” has much clout or respect within the company. I would not be worried about communicating his shortcomings to your boss.

          As a new employee, I’m afraid to rock the boat a little bit.

        9. pastelround*

          Have you considered that throwing a senior team member under the bus and exposing what could be a very real toxic corporate culture may not play well for you as a new employee?

          Just ignore the parts of John’s advice you don’t like or ask for a new mentor without dobbing on him.

          I’m not defending this kind of behaviour. It’s wrong. But as a new employee I don’t see why you’d risk your own career to expose this sort of thing. History tells us most of the time all that happens to whistleblowers is you get fired and nothing changes.

          This could very well be the way the company actually runs and you’re going to look naive to say ‘John told me it runs like x and y and that’s bad right?’ Many companies DO run shoddily. It may actually be true. Even if it is not true throwing John under the bus may not make you popular.

          This isn’t school. You don’t go to the teacher and dob on someone and they thank you for it. John may be the worst jerk going around but there may not be much to gain for you to do anything about it.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            This is awful fear mongering nonsense. Don’t listen to this person, they’re clearly scarred by the toxicity that does exits out there but it is not NORMAL or REGULAR behavior to constantly fear about.

    5. Legal Beagle*

      This is absolutely grounds for switching mentors! If the purpose of the internal mentorship program is to help you develop as an employee, then John’s “mentorship” is completely counterproductive, and a waste of company time and resources. (And if you listened to his awful advice, just imagine the headaches that would have caused…) The company has an interest in ending this arrangement and knowing not to assign future mentees to John, or supervising him closely as a technical mentor.

    6. I edit everything*

      A mentor’s technical skills should be pretty far down the list of “useful lessons to impart,” also. Mentors are more about connections, workplace norms, time management, career path, leadership, and so forth–all things your mentor seems especially clueless about.

      If his technical skills are so very superior to anyone else’s that you think it’s worth spending time with him, it might be worth getting a different mentor, but connect with John for specific technical lessons only, if you think you can keep him on topic.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Yes! Excellent point. John sounds like a good trainer but a terrible mentor. Those are not interchangeable titles.

        1. TechWorker*

          Lots of companies do use them as such though. (I’ve never heard the word ‘trainer’ be used in a work context though pretty sure our ‘mentors‘ do mostly that).

      2. Hills to Die on*

        Plus, if he’s that adept technically, perhaps they could have him give Technical training sessions to people who are in related roles. He’d keep on track and actually impart some knowledge to others.

    7. Hey Karma, Over Here*

      Yeah, you don’t need a technical mentor. That’s what your teachers were for. And he can still be a teacher. You can ask him to help you with technical/field specific questions you have. He’s not a bad guy. He’s just limited.
      The mentor is supposed to help you morph your academic knowledge and natural skills into a successful career. He is not capable of doing that. He is doing the opposite of that. He is hindering your career and your success at this company.
      You can ask for better.

  5. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

    Is it common for a new hire to be assigned the same mentor they had as an intern? I can see arguments both ways. Keeping the same mentor lets you build on stuff you started learning during your internship, while getting a new mentor exposes you to more areas of the business (and them to you).

    Either way, John’s advice is terrible, and appears mostly to illustrate “What not to do.”

    1. OrigCassandra*

      Oh, hey, that’s a good point, and it could be a useful talking point for the OP. “I’ve already worked with John, and I’d like to expand my network here by working with someone else.”

  6. juliebulie*

    Until I got to the end of the letter when OP mentions that John will be retiring in a few years, I assumed that John was fairly new to the workforce himself – you know, a few years senior to OP. Not a seasoned professional who should know better!

    With the number of bad tactics John gave, OP would have had no time to complete any real work.

  7. SheLooksFamiliar*

    OP, you owe it to yourself to find another mentor, as Alison suggests. Anyone who suggest lying as a tactic to ‘get noticed’, or berates you for talking to your boss is so out of touch with business norms as to be irresponsible.

    I’m so sorry you’re dealing with thus, but you were hired for a reason: the company saw you did good work, and you have the skills and potential to grow and progress with them. Find a new mentor and remind yourself that you have a lot to offer. Don’t let John derail you with his truly disturbing ‘advice.’

  8. Talley*

    “My first piece of terrible advice, is never tell anyone about the terrible advice I’m giving you!” -John

    1. Phony Genius*

      Actually, that’s the part that sets off the loudest bells for me. It’s similar to how abusers tell their victims that they should never report what they’re doing to anybody. If advice is good, it’s usually shareable.

  9. Damn it, Hardison!*

    OP, perhaps there is some way to focus John’s mentoring just on the technical aspects of your job, and ignore or redirect his advice on the communications/management stuff? Do you think you could brush off his management advice with some version of “thanks for your input I’ll think about that” and follow up with “so on this technical problem, I’m considering this. Do you think that would solve it?” It might be a bit awkward and tricky at first, but maybe it would get John to focus on his good technical advice, so that you can still learn from him in his area of expertise (which is clearly not management).

    1. MenteeLetterWriter*

      When I’ve had conversations with him where I disagree, I say something along the lines of “I appreciate your help, but I’m not comfortable/can’t do xyz” which causes him to push even harder to get me to see his point of view. All his management advice is unsolicited. I’m not usually ever the one reaching out to ask him questions. He usually calls me at least once a day, even when my status is “busy” because I’m in a meeting, so that he can explain to me projects that he’s cc’ed me on and then usually goes on a tangent about his career or family.

      1. A Person*

        While I agree that the best idea here is to switch mentors, I also wonder if there’s basic boundary setting that needs to go on. He feels VERY over involved with you and your career – goes with the “adopted” piece you mentioned. I suspect you may still end up with a personal issue even when he’s no longer your official mentor and will end up needing to be a bit harsh to get the phone calls to stop. I understand that might be difficult when he’s such a good technical resource.

        I have some experience with this in my personal life but maybe somebody else can weigh in terms of dealing with this at work?

        1. Not So NewReader*

          This is another good way to point out that they have been teamed up for too long.

          I think OP will be able to do a fade out here because it is a work based relationship. “Oh, I can’t have to run errands.” “Oh dear, I will have to take a pass, my parents/sis/cousin are in town this weekend.”

          You can find other good resources out there, OP. He’s not the only one and he’s not the last one. And you can leverage what he has shown you that is correct. You can use those things as a spring board for growing your knowledge pool.

      2. Damn it, Hardison!*

        Oh, he sounds worse than I imagined! Gentle redirection won’t work in this case. It doesn’t seem like whatever his technical merits are outweighs his considerable downside, so you are likely better off without him entirely. It does sound like your coworkers are well aware of John’s issues, and probably very sympathetic to your situation, even if they haven’t said so directly.

      3. tangerineRose*

        So he’s giving you advice that could end your career if you took it (lying to management about how a project is going, for example), and he’s wasting your time and interrupting you when you’re busy. He’s really being awful.

      4. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

        So, usually he calls you, unprompted, rather than having scheduled mentoring sessions or you reaching out to him? This sounds like a terrible way to handle a mentoring relationship. When he interrupts you in a meeting, you either have to stop paying attention to your scheduled meeting, or not pay attention to your mentor. That gives you a mentor who is making you choose between your assigned work, and him. And that’s before even getting into his unrelated tangents…

      5. Hey Karma, Over Here*

        Good lord. Helicopter mentor. You won’t be able to stop him yourself. Talk to your manager.

      6. nymitz*

        waitasec – daily calls? That’s another talking point when you discuss the need for a new mentor with your supervisor. “Boss, could you help me understand what the norm is around here for mentoring relationships? The daily check-ins are a bit much and they take away from my ability to do my assigned work. (weekly, biweekly, monthly) feels more in line with what I see my peers doing.”

        1. beanie gee*

          TOTALLY. This is not what mentoring is supposed to look like!

          I don’t have a ton of experience with mentoring programs, but my understanding is:
          1. You meet maybe once a month
          2. You set goals and talk about how you want to meet those goals.
          3. The mentor provides advice and guidance based on their own experience, but the mentee is under no requirement to ever follow it! And should definitely not be punished. They are NOT a supervisor or really responsible for any of the mentee’s actual work or performance.

      7. Librarian of SHIELD*

        If you’ve set your status as “busy” in the calendar, you do not have to answer John’s phone calls. Send him a quick email later in the day saying “Sorry I missed your call earlier. Thanks for the tip about X, I’ll make sure to keep an eye on that. Talk to you soon!”

        You do not have to drop what you’re doing to take a call that you know will be derailing, and putting more distance into your relationship is really necessary at this point.

  10. Sinister Serina*

    It does seem like he’s using you to show his skills-“look how well my mentee is doing! She’s finished all her projects! She’s working on all these other projects! I can’t be that bad if I’m giving her advice and she’s doing so well!”. Except he’s giving terrible advice and you really would do well to try and switch to someone else-it’s clear there’s a reason he hadn’t had an intern/mentee in a long time.

  11. Bookartist*

    Oh my god, how long has John been lying about budgets!? And how has he managed to not yet get fired?

    1. tangerineRose*

      I wonder if the company has set things up so they don’t have to ask him about budgets, etc. so that’s not a problem? He sounds like someone who should be fired, but sometimes companies will try to work around this kind of issue with someone who has a lot of technical skills.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        I’ll bet that he hasn’t actually touched budgets for years. I’ll bet that he doesn’t have any direct reports, and he maybe used to head up projects decades ago but that stopped because of, well, lying about budgets.

  12. Beth Jacobs*

    1) Hopefully, the mentor change will be granted without much ado. I know it isn’t the same, but when I studied at a British university, we had personal tutors. They were not tutors in the usual sense of the word, they were academic members of staff meant to provide holistic advice (academic, university experience, personal issues, career choices, etc.). The university policy was that a requested change would always be granted (even multiple times), because there’s just no point in having a personal tutor you don’t click with. I hope your company approaches mentorships in the same way.
    2) But as Alison said, it’s really important to make sure he doesn’t just get reassigned to someone else. Often, hr or management is vaguely aware of someone’s bad behaviour, but “no one has complained”. Don’t give them that excuse! Complain in very specific terms so that they can’t justify reassigning him.

    1. MenteeLetterWriter*

      Thank you, I hope so too! He actually has one other mentee besides me, but their relationship is much more professional. I think my mentor is much more invested in me and my personal development, maybe because I’m a woman or because I was his intern last summer? I’m not sure.

      1. Anononon*

        It sounds like he sees you as a protege to leave behind once he retires, especially because it seems like (in his mind) you’re going along with it. It seems like that’s the reason why he’s more invested – it’s because you’re letting him in.

        There is definitely a gendered aspect to all of this, as women are much more socialized not to rock the boat/accept any advice given. There can also be more consequences for women if they refuse such help/advice. However, OP, you still need to get out of this awful mentoring relationship. Please talk to the program or your boss.

      2. Batgirl*

        It is because you are a woman, yes. The lecturing and berating just gives it away totally as a mansplaining set up. Not to mention the free emotional labour you have to perform whenever he wants to bend someone’s ear. Always run like the dickens whenever anyone tries to make your working relationship “like a family”. It usually means “This is the benevolent blanket which will cover up all the shenanigans”. If it would be insulting for a mentor to make you his girlfriend or ‘work wife’, why is it ok to be a pseudo daughter or a granddaughter? Those relationships are not professional and don’t respect you as an adult in the workplace.

      3. Username required*

        Given that John is very clearly treating his mentees differently, depending on their gender, I would hope that would be an easy red flag to wave at your supervisor to be assigned a new mentor.

      4. c-*

        “Maybe because I’m a woman”

        Honestly, LW, I knew you were a woman and he an older man just by your original letter, to give you an idea of how common and egregious this kind of behaviour is.

        He’s grooming you. Maybe not sexually, and maybe not consciously, but definitely grooming you to give his ego boosts and soothing (sorry, but given enough time, this will likely be detrimental to your reputation at work).

        You need to tell your boss about his asking you to lie to management asap and ask for a new mentor, and you need to deal with him as you would any other inappropriate creep at work.
        You know, like when a barista is still polite to a costumer who keeps asking her out, not nice but relentlessly and faultlessly professional? Stop being warm and nice. Be polite and professional, but make your distance and keep it. He calls when you’re busy? Don’t pick up. He calls more often than you’re comfortable with? Establish a check-in schedule that works for you (singular you) and don’t pick up outside of it, shoot him an e-mail later telling him you’ll talk about whatever it is on [next scheduled check-in]. He starts telling you about his personal business? Redirect to work, and excuse yourself and hang up if he keeps making it personal.

        Expect him to increase the pressure and manipulation when you start putting up boundaries (“after all I’ve done for you”, “you are being ungrateful/selfish/naive”, negs, favour-sharking, increased berating, etc.). Judging by your coworkers’ cautious behaviour, he won’t get better on his own, so you need to actively become distant and keep him at arms-lenght. This, on top of the career-ending bad advice (putting your name on projects without your consent, WTF! That could have really blown up on your face) and the beratings he’s giving you (I’m not convinced it’s not verbal abuse, it’s making you cry so often), is why you need to get away from his mentorship. It’s actively damaging you, and won’t fix itself on its own.

        Good luck! It’s a difficult situation, but you can do it :)

  13. Cedrus Libani*

    With a personality type like that, I’d be tempted to just level with the guy. “Dude, you can get away with that crap because you’re a lot harder to replace than I am. Not doing it. Can’t make me.”

    He may still think you’re a naive little sheep whose faith in management is misplaced, but at least you’re a sheep with the courage of your convictions? Those aren’t much fun to argue with, so maybe he’ll stop.

  14. Ashley*

    I feel that John is grooming her. Sorry if this has been already said but I got so mad I just skimmed Allison’s response and didn’t read any comments. He may be trying to put her in compromising positions so that he has some power of her. I’m seeing the parallels between what he is doing and how pedophiles groom their victims. I could barely get through the letter I was so pissed.

    1. Fiona*

      I think that’s kind of a stretch. I completely understand where you’re coming from because he wants to wall her off from communication with her boss, but I think the more likely explanation is mundane: he’s weird and insecure (despite being technically successfully) and inappropriately projecting a lot onto her.

      1. Ashley*

        It’s a stretch that a man would put a woman in an awkward situation to take advantage of her? You think that’s completely unheard of? It’s the oldest trick in the book. And not just for sexual harassment.

        1. WellRed*

          Yes, it’s a stretch. Comparing him to a pedophile?! We’ve seen plenty of letters here from people getting horrible work advice.

    2. pastelround*

      Uhhh someone teaching someone corporate cloak and dagger, which goes on at like literally most big companies, is comparable to a pedophile? Ooookkkay

      I honestly think sometimes this site exists in some kind of dreamworld where everything is perfect and everyone has a right to speak up and then everything gets taken care of just perfectly.

      None of this letter is surprising. Tough corporate shenanigans are well reported on. I’m not defending it, it is crap. But it’s not unusual.

      The idea a brand new worker would expose corporate wrong doing, throw a senior team member under the bus and make sexual harassment or pedophile grooming insinuations and this is going to be FINE for their career is just beyond belief.

      1. c-*

        Wow. This is the opposite of helpful for the LW.

        Her coworkers and bosses are luckily already aware to some extent that the mentor, and not she, is the problem (see the LW’s updates; under MenteeLW, I think). This is a case where she can actually explain the bad advice she’s getting and ask for a mentor transfer on very solid grounds. If she wants to really cover her ass, she can throw in that he’s a great technical expert, but in this case I don’t think she’ll suffer negative consequences for reporting the problem.

        I think the comments about the mentor’s creepiness are meant as a warning (cause this is really common behaviour that disproportionately harms young women, and LW should be aware of that in case it turns ugly), not as something to discuss with management.

        And for the record, he was the one who threw her under the bus when he added her name to a project without her permission. What’s next?

        I get the power dynamics make this awkward, but LW needs to defend herself. Luckily, in this case she should be able to do it without getting worse off than she is already, since the mentor is close to retirement and apparently not very trusted by his colleagues.

    3. c-*

      He also pinged my creep radar, yeah. Don’t know if the grooming is or will turn sexual, but an older man forcing unwanted intimacy (in his case, personal conversations) on a young woman he has power over (mentor/mentee) is problematic for a reason.

      My read is that he’s doing it for the ego boosts, but sexual or not, it’s harming LW (making her cry and feel insecure and uncomfortable, putting her on the awkward position of contradicting her mentor or risking the lie about the project to be blamed on her, skewing her knowledge of professional norms, making her reluctant to flag problems…). It needs to stop like, yesterday.

  15. Jarissa*

    I knew a man a lot like John but outside the workforce. I was not the focus of his “mentoring”, thank goodness, and of course I’m not a professional analyzer of this sort of problem — but my impression of Dan was that his “mentee” was his (surround in magic sparkles) Legacy (/end surround). The poor mentee was meant (by Dan) to become Dan 2.0, the last chance for a kind of immortality-by-reincarnation, so that Dan could rest easy knowing that his proxy continued forever onward into the future.

    And the problem was that when the I’m-not-going-to-be-you reality finally surfaced for Dan, he reversed course to try to absolutely destroy “false Legacy” as quickly as he could in order to get to work on the next potential mentee.

    That eventually did not work out according to Dan’s plan, either, because firstly Dan was not anywhere near as good at understanding other people as he thought, and secondly because enough outside observers saw what was going on *and supported both of Dan’s targets* that Dan eventually ran out of alternative channels for his efforts.

    So please: document everything, pass that around to all the appropriate sources as others here have been advising, tell John *and his family* nothing that he can use as a different way to toss chaos into any part of your life, and think of John as a wombat: he might still think of you as the nice human who gives him a great sense of self, but he’s eventually going to get his survival instincts crosswired enough to maul you.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I agree with this.
      If a person lets someone live rent free in their house long enough, the other person begins to think it’s their house also.
      He’s been mentoring you long enough, OP. And he def could be thinking of you as his legacy, hence the grandchild stuff. It’s time to see how others do things and approach things. (I hope you kind of chuckle, it’s amazing how many different approaches people use for even the simplest of things.)

  16. Howard Bannister*

    I knew a guy who believed that thing about ‘always tell your boss it’s fine, even if it’s behind schedule and over budget.’

    It got his boss freaking fired when finally it led to a disaster. And it didn’t do the guy any favors for his career, either. (I always thought it was unfair the boss took so much heat for it, but the rationale was that a good boss should have been able to know his employee was snowing him and should have been looking to see proof of a functional project as it went along…)

    That is stunningly bad advice. If you follow it you can destroy more than just your own career. I’m super-glad OP was able to tell that this was bad advice. And I agree with Alison – this is not a guy who should be mentoring anybody, ever! And if I heard he was giving that kind of advice I’d want to apply extra scrutiny to all of his projects, too!

    1. Observer*

      And if I heard he was giving that kind of advice I’d want to apply extra scrutiny to all of his projects, too!


      OP, there are a few categories of issue that you should absolutely bring to management in a reasonably functional workplace. Your situation hits 3 of them:

      1. His behavior is negatively affecting you.
      2. and 3. His *work related* behavior is significantly unethical and has the possibility causing significant harm to the company.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Good life advice here.
      When someone tells us something that we know can’t be right, we need to seriously look at that. If more than one instance of bad advice occurs we need to seriously look at the person who is advising us.

      OP, you sound like a nice person and a sharp employee. I bet you will excel by being exposed to the thinking and inputs of more people. I think that is what you should aim for.

  17. Mannheim Steamroller*

    You’re not allowed to talk to your own boss? No organization can survive with a rule like that.

  18. EngineerMom*

    Definitely talk with whoever runs the mentoring program. They need to make sure John never ends up in that position again, as he’s giving advice that’s not only bad and could get you fired, but will actively undermine the functionality of the company as a whole.

    I’ve had very mixed luck with being “assigned” a mentor. If you truly want a mentor beyond your manager, try looking around the company to see who is working in the kind of position you would like to aim for, and ask for informational interviews with the prospect of beginning a mentoring relationship. Ideally, this is exactly what a mentoring program would do, but in some cases, you’re better off looking around yourself. Not all people who make great mentors also volunteer for mentoring programs. Sometimes they’re just really excellent managers or experienced folks who you meet professionally.

    1. Fish Microwaver*

      The mentor/mentee relationship is supposed to be a two way street, where, as you mentioned, the mentee approaches a more experienced co-worker and invite them to mentor them. The mentor has the option of declining, based on workload, personality, experience etc. It’s supposed to be more of a conversation than a structured teacher/learner situation. This company needs to re-assess its concept of mentoring.

  19. Mayor of Llamatown*

    This sounds like having a Gumption Dad who is in charge of your work and you are forced to interact with for 40 hours a week.

  20. Fish Microwaver*

    The mentor/mentee relationship is supposed to be a two way street, where, as you mentioned, the mentee approaches a more experienced co-worker and invite them to mentor them. The mentor has the option of declining, based on workload, personality, experience etc. It’s supposed to be more of a conversation than a structured teacher/learner situation. This company needs to re-assess its concept of mentoring.

  21. CW*

    A couple of years?! If this were a couple of MONTHS, then I say hang in there. But YEARS? That’s not okay.

  22. Squeakrad*

    And all the mentorship programs I’ve been familiar with – first of all they primarily been at nonprofits where the exchange is that you get mentorship in return for low pay and few benefits. But in the for-profit companies I work for and with, a mentor is a some-time thing, not someone who checks on your daily, whether they are giving you good advice or not.

    If you’re in a company that you will need a technical expertise at some point, it may be a slower process to learn it as you go rather than getting information imported directly from John. But I think it’s a much safer way to go both in terms of your own stress level and in forging a long-term relationship with the company.

  23. Jolinar of Malkshur*

    The encouragement to lie to senior management about being overbudget is certainly a red flag, but I do think the below is not an uncommon business practice.

    He recently tried to add my name as a contact on projects that I had no participation in

  24. Brigitha*

    If you need to deal with some of his bad advise in the mean time, you could try employing Captain Awkward’s Grey Rock technique. When he gives you bad advise, make a bland non-committal statement and change the subject back to a work/tech thing.

    John “Here is some terrible advise about lying to your supervisor.”
    You “Hmm. I’ll think about that. Anyway, about coding those widgets…” or maybe “That’s one way to look at it. So, when I was going through the TPS reports …” or just “Ok, thanks. So, when I get the data back on Monday …”

  25. JSPA*

    #2; I can see one rationale being, “dropped into a group of candidates who may not respect standard social norms while in an interview setting is the closest we can get, to dropping you into a classroom of students.” I’m somewhat accepting of that; the level of composure and follow-through and professionalism and doggedness needed to teach a class are a different level and different sort from those of a normal interview.

    Another probably is, “we’re used to judging not what students try to show us, but students’ actual skills” (which, studies say, is pretty hit-or-miss and culturally biased and gender biased). That part, as Alison notes, is problematic from the get-go. In fact, it’s more, not less problematic when people believe they are better than average at doing so.

    If they’re looking for people to be collaborative, compassionate and helpful, it could still work (and if they recently let go of someone who failed completely at those things, while looking great on a standard interview, that’s a third motivation for this). If they’re looking for something very different–“command” or “dominance” or “zing” or “superstar quality” or whatever–you didn’t want that job, anyway.

  26. Cait*

    This vaguely reminds me of the advice my 72-year-old father gives me about employment. He’s of the generation who believes you can still walk into an office and “demand they give you a job” because that’ll show them how committed you are. He also told me that a thank you note or email after an interview isn’t good enough and that I should also send baked goods (I’ve gotten “gifts” from interviewees before and I always toss them). I never take this advice because it would obviously be damaging to my reputation and future career. But it sounds like John is also of an older generation and has some very skewed views about “how companies work.”

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