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I've been recently asked by my manager to start mentoring new employees. I'm seen as one of the more productive and technical employees but I'm an individual contributor (and happy with that), and I think this is a way to have me spread the knowledge so to speak. I have no problem with q&a sessions with new employees, or helping out in general, but I find arranged mentorships to be kind of awkward. How can I express to my boss that I'm not interested in doing this without rustling any feathers?

  • Is this mentorship an established practice at your company? Is it just functioning as a mentor or will you be supervising or managing these people? – Lilienthal Mar 7 '16 at 22:43
  • Standard mentorship, which will involve checking in periodically to see what problems they're encountering, offering advice, guidance, encouragement, etc. Suggesting small projects for them to get their feet wet and reviewing the results. All good stuff, just not up my alley. It's not established company wide, but several people under my manager do mentoring. – ConditionRacer Mar 7 '16 at 23:02
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    Note that being able to mentor is a useful and valued skill. Even if it's out of your comfort zone, you may want to consider it. Remember, spreading the knowledge usually increases your value; hoarding knowledge with keeps you from ever being promoted out of that position, or gets you replaced with someone who improves the whole department's productivity rather than only his own. – keshlam Mar 7 '16 at 23:51
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    @ConditionRacer You do realise that saying no to this likely means that you'd be killing your career? Some people can become knowledge experts and dispense their wisdom from an ivory tower but the vast majority of people who want to grow professionally will do so by managing other people. Mentor roles are a stepping stone to actual management. I'd also recommend taking "liking" someone out of the equation. You don't have to like someone to be collegial. – Lilienthal Mar 8 '16 at 11:23
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    @ConditionRacer In that case Myles' answer is spot on. You may want to add the fact that you're not interested in moving into management to your question. – Lilienthal Mar 8 '16 at 17:14
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I would go with something like:

Hey boss, not to ruffle any feathers here but mentoring is out of my comfort zone. I'm fine doing Q&A sessions of helping out in general but I find arranged mentorships to be kind of awkward. I see my career path as being a long term individual contributor so developing the management skills that mentoring builds really doesn't fit with where I want to go. There are others on the team who would get much more out of this opportunity than me.

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I dislike mentoring, so I'm just honest with the manager.

'I don't want to do any mentoring, I don't know how to and I'm no good at teaching.'

Usually they then give it to someone else. If they insist then there's not much you can do about it. But I've never had them insist. I've had them try and talk me into it in which case I just refuse.

  • In general they shouldn't force you to do it. In my experience people who don't like mentoring generally also are not good at it. The people who are being mentored will also feel you rather not be there, so it creates unnecessary tension. – Lucas Kauffman Mar 8 '16 at 6:16

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