I was introduced to a mentor for career advice on things such as CV, interviews, etc. by one of his mentees. He's not my mentor yet and as he's an external mentor, there is no obligation that we work together.

At first we exchanged a few emails about what to expect in his mentoring. There is a small application process and he said just to get to know the mentees better, therefore we exchanged phone numbers. He talks to me everyday constantly. He encouraged me to initiate conversation. When I was busy and didn't initiate he would ask why.

We also exchanged texts on WhatsApp. In just under a week, he started to text me excessively e.g. in the morning (6am), midnight, weekend, and during the day, everyday.

As I didn't have a profile picture in the messenger, he said I should upload one so he'd know who he's talking to. I did, but was not very comfortable doing so. He commented on my looks, said I look very cute. This didn't feel right, we haven't even had an official meeting yet. Then he sent me his photo too.

Then one Saturday morning he asked to Face Time, I said I was going out for breakfast with friends. He sounded a bit upset. I rejected his phone calls and face time invite about three times as I was busy spending time with family and friends over the weekend.

He encouraged me talk to him about everything including personal life and family. He said he needs to know the candidate on a more personal level before he takes them on.

I might be naive to think maybe he's just incredibly nice and keen on mentoring. We are due to meet near his office, but he's acting very unprofessional and needy right now. I'm not sure if I should continue talking to him about mentoring. Should I reject his mentoring?


6 Answers 6


This sounds very much like he is crossing the boundaries of professional into personal. If you have the choice of taking him as mentor, I would urge you to consider this carefully. Asking you for personal details, to FaceTime on Saturday morning has well and truly entered "creepy" territory. What I would suggest is:

  • Document, document, document. If there is any written communications such as texts and emails, or logs of phone calls to you at outside of business hours, record these carefully.
  • Make it very, very clear that you are not interested in a personal relationship and that his advances are making you uncomfortable.
  • Tell him that you wish to keep your relationship at a professional level, and that if he has an issue with that then perhaps you would be better to be allocated a different mentor.

If it continues, then go straight to HR with the documentation you have of any unwanted behaviour that makes you uncomfortable. Sexual harassment is almost always taken very seriously, as well it should. You do not have to put up with being made to feel personally uncomfortable in the professional context.

While mostly I agree with Masked Man, I disagree about political clout. If he is pushing past professional boundaries into personal areas and is making you uncomfortable, this is not something you have to put up with, regardless of what level this person is in the business. Sexual harassment is normally covered in legislation. Make sure you document everything. But if it's a situation you can avoid by deciding to decline his being your mentor, do so.


Based on the updated information, my advice remains pretty much the same. You don't have to put up with it, especially if it's been organised through the university. If he's an independent consultant, cease communications immediately.

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    I would simply say that thanks, but you don't feel you need his services at this time. Don't elaborate, don't respond further. Keep it professional and brief.
    – Jane S
    Commented Sep 13, 2015 at 9:08
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    Though I agree with everything you have said. You have jumped straight to defcon-5. The first stage is just to say "No Thank you. I don't feel you are the best mentor for me." (the OP does not need to explain). Then if it continues its time to take it up a notch. Commented Sep 13, 2015 at 18:52
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    @LokiAstari I did state clearly in my opening paragraph that if he isn't the OP's mentor that she should not take him on as such. But given he has the OP's contact details, then documenting everything is very prudent, just in case.
    – Jane S
    Commented Sep 13, 2015 at 21:42
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    @JaneS: I don't think that's as plane as you think it is. I would urge you to consider this carefully is not plain at all. That should be an explicit "Tell him No". This guys is obviously overstepping the bounds of just being a mentor (or even a colleague in general). But the first step is to make him aware. Yes document everything and escalate it if it persists. Commented Sep 14, 2015 at 1:40
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    I honestly think she should speak to a higher authority. The reason why I am saying this is that it is important for other people to be aware of what is happening. If something does go wrong, then most people be like,"she never said anything to anybody". I remember a friend who went and spoke to the HR about a similar problem with professor and the Hr told her that he got another complaint like that before for the same person. So it was a good thing she came forward. A lot of students are afraid to speak up until something worse happens. Also as @JaneS said "Document document document"
    – User56756
    Commented Sep 14, 2015 at 23:46

Should I reject his mentoring? Doesn't feel entirely professional to me. We are due to meet near his office but he's acting very unprofessional and needy right now. I'm not sure if I should continue talking to him about mentoring.

If you were my daughter and you felt this strongly (right or wrong, for whatever reason), I'd tell you to terminate this "relationship" immediately.

It can't be an effective mentorship unless you are completely comfortable.

Later: I'm not comfortable with him being my mentor at this stage as I think he did come across as creepy.

Trust your feelings and stop things now.

  • If you aren't comfortable, it isn't working; consider another mentor.
    – keshlam
    Commented Sep 17, 2015 at 13:16

Trust your instincts. Trust your gut. Each red flag you've mentioned is definitely significant, especially at that level of a mentor-mentee relationship. Get the career center to assign you a different mentor. Don't ever meet this guy in person (not even for a mentorship-related appointment near his office). And tell him you've found a new mentor.

If he still doesn't get the message. Make it clear to him, that he has been acting too friendly and that you're definitely not interested.

And no, he doesn't need to change, and you don't need to remain friends (especially that you were never friends to begin with). This is not a request. There are dozens of other students that he could be mentoring instead of you.

If he keeps on insisting, don't justify yourself, don't explain yourself, and don't give him any new thread of information about yourself. Rinse and repeat like a broken record. It also goes without saying that if this point is ever reached, you should block any further emails, IMs, or phone calls you get from this guy. And remove him as a contact from linkedin (assuming you added him already). And that you should tell the other mentee that introduced you (I assume that person is a friend of yours), that you're finding this guy too friendly and too needy, and that he/she should be careful not to say anything about you to him from now on.

And you may also want to rehearse what you're going to say, or what you're going to do one day, if that guy "coincidentally" shows up at a place you usually hang out at. I'm not saying this is going to happen. I'm just saying it's best to be prepared for that kind of possibility, whether it's him, or some other needy guy you've already blown off more than once.

Update: I've edited my answer to take into account the new information. And also, Steve Jessop is right. Telling him that he's acting weird and needy is probably not the most productive response you could give.

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    "tell him straight up he's acting weird and needy" -- when doing so, be aware that regardless of whether (a) he's weird and needy, or (b) he realises that he's weird and needy, he'll likely characterise his own behaviour as "just being friendly" or similar, and act (perhaps even be) astonished and offended that you see anything unusual in his actions or that they're undesirable to you. Whether or not you want to make a federal case of it, that's how he'll be, so do try to arrange things to move yourself through this uncomfortable phase and away from him asap. Commented Sep 13, 2015 at 11:41

Edit OP clarified after I wrote the answer that she is a student, not an employee. Nonetheless, I will leave this answer here as I think it is still useful to others who might be in a similar situation. It could also apply to the OP's case if "manager" is taken to mean her Dean/Principal/Career Counsellor/whoever is her "supervisor" in regards to this interaction with the "mentor".

It does sound like he is misusing the mentoring to try to hit on you. Sending an email describing what to expect in the mentoring, getting to know coworkers better, and sharing one professional photograph is okay, but the rest of it is entirely unnecessary.

If you are uncomfortable with his advances (as I expect you would be), you have a few options to stop it.

  • Give him a polite warning

Hi so-and-so, I would prefer to restrict our mentoring to the workplace, and not extend it to our personal lives outside work. Do you think that would work?

  • Ask your manager to assign you another mentor (self-explanatory, I would presume).

  • Report the situation to your manager.

Let your manager deal with the situation. They are better skilled in dealing with such situations.

Which of the options you would use depends on your situation and the company culture.

Be aware that the option 3 will create at least a black mark in his personnel file (which most "corporates" maintain per employee) if your claim is found to be valid. If the company doesn't usually take these complaints seriously (such companies exist!), then he might get the "license" to create further problems. Tread carefully if your company is one of these.

You also need to consider how much "political clout" he has in the company. While sexual harassment in most companies is serious business and would lead to severe disciplinary action, it is possible that some "investigators" would pretend to look the other way if he has "important contacts" or other kinds of importance in the company.

Edit In hindsight, and after reading Jane's comment about this point in her answer, I realised my laziness has led to a misinterpretation, which I will clarify.

If he turns out to have a political clout, it does not mean you should simply put up with the harassment. Rather, you should consider this factor if you choose to take the formal complaint route. In a company where sexual harassment cases are taken seriously, and if nothing else works, it is a no-brainer.

However, if the company is the type which will ignore complaints from lower-ranked employees to protect the high-ranked ones, then you have to be aware that you are in for a long-battle, which might involve taking the matter outside the company (that is, legally). We all have limited time on this planet, and whether solving this company's broken system is worth the sizeable amount of your time is for you to decide.

I am especially inclined to point this out because I get the impression from your description that all the "creepy" communication with him happened over the phone, for which there is no paper trail (unless you had the amazing foresight to record all his calls).End of edit

That said though, if he were not so creepy as you have described here, a case could have been made for this being a cultural difference (since I do not know anything about his culture). In the Eastern world, it is not that uncommon for people to try establishing personal relationships before professional ones. However, even by the standards of Eastern culture, asking for FaceTime unrelated to work and demanding sharing of all personal and family life is way over the top.

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    @Chris There is plenty of it, you are probably referring to a very restricted definition of it, which includes only physical contact. Unwelcome advances of sexual nature, including verbal ones, are included in the definition of sexual harassment, especially since this makes OP uncomfortable and I expect the "mentor" is not naive enough to not realize this. Commenting on OP's looks, persistently asking her to call him and setup FaceTime after work, and the overall description clearly suggests a case of sexual harassment. This might vary by location though.
    – Masked Man
    Commented Sep 14, 2015 at 11:49
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    @Chris Read my above comment for why I interpret this as SH. This is not the first time I am coming across a case like this, by the way. Believe it or not, SH is serious business, and commenting about someone's looks in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable by itself has been routinely considered SH. In OP's case, there are a lot more red flags and she is clearly uncomfortable with the "mentor"'s advances. You are, of course, free to choose your own interpretation, based on your experience, there are no right/wrong interpretations.
    – Masked Man
    Commented Sep 14, 2015 at 12:13

Take a stand and when saying yes to others make sure you are not saying no to yourself. This is definitely that case. Your personal life is of no concern to anyone. Exchanging photos is creepy. Don't go along with this attitude. You don't have to do this. Don't feel bounded by the norms of too polite to say no. Go with your gut. Make yourself clear to him. If he insists or try to manipulate best not to go ahead with selecting him as your mentor.


If you want to sue him, make it official or punish him in any way, then it's necessary to firmly establish whether it constitutes as harassment or not.

However if all you want is to terminate this 'thing' unilaterally - it doesn't matter! All that matters is what you want.

In this instance it doesn't matter if this guy is trying to harass you or if he's just way too cordial and can't understand the boundaries. You have every right to avoid working with people you're not comfortable with. It doesn't matter if others share your opinions or not - they're your opinions and your actions should be based only on them. You have right to not explain this in detail when asked.

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