Mentorships can help you grow in your career, but some young professionals can get exploited by toxic mentors. Here are 5 tell-tale signs to look out for.

They expect blind loyalty

A toxic mentor can express in one way or another that unquestioning loyalty to them is important for your success. They may manipulate you to feel indebted to them- giving you high praise and recommendation over others, in exchange for your loyalty. While you may feel excited by their initial “kindness”, don’t let this blind you to their bad behaviour. Respect is important, but blind loyalty toward a toxic mentor can end up backfiring.

They turn you against others

Your mentor may create an "us vs them" dynamic, where he/she tries to make your other colleagues seem like villains. Mentors who do this may be disgruntled employees or frustrated because they can’t get their way. They may be using you to further themselves or get back at a co-worker. For example, they may encourage you to lie, spread rumours, raise issues up with HR or “empower” you to stand up to a certain senior, in a situation where it’s not needed.

The mentorship only benefits them

A mentorship should be a give and take, but if you have a toxic mentor, then it’ll often feel one-sided. Your mentor may commend you on your work in private where there are no witnesses, but take the credit for your ideas in public. If there’s little experience, knowledge or even connections passed down to you, you may be giving far more to your mentor than what you’re getting back.

They set unrealistic expectations

Clear expectations are vital to your growth- so beware of a mentor who keeps shifting the goal post. If your best is never enough and you feel like you need to prove yourself by taking on more work, your mentor may be exploiting you.

They never take accountability

Toxic mentors can often excuse abusive behaviour as “toughening you up”. They may be hyper critical and their feedback can feel like a personal attack. Your self-esteem should improve with your mentor, so if you’re feeling more anxious and insecure, then it’s time to re-consider the mentorship. Be wary if your communication is usually top-down, your opinion is always wrong or you have to walk on eggshells around them.

Mentors are supposed to help you level up in your career- not put you down, manipulate or black-ball you. Healthy mentorships are mutually beneficial and should always encourage growth and exploration. If you see any of the above signs in your mentor, it may be time to politely end the relationship. Need more advice on this topic? You can always reach out to us for a private chat on AskCellCgirl.

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