The Value of Having a Mentor
Guest post by Mandy Schwarting, Regional Director, Alabama Operations, Spire Energy
I never understood the need for a mentor until I actually needed one.
Someone a lot wiser than I unofficially appointed a mentor for me, early in my tenure at my company. We met for coffee and lunch on a regular basis and she listened as I talked about work, challenges with coworkers and topics that probably bored her to death. But she never complained or criticized me. She allowed me to make some mistakes and grow as I gained some maturity over the years. I asked her advice about different career moves in the company and she gave her opinions when they were helpful but always left the decisions up to me.
One day a trusted colleague came to me with some news that another coworker was telling people within the company that I couldn’t be trusted. All over a work-related decision that my boss – not I – made. I was shocked, embarrassed and disappointed. I thought I had left behind middle school gossip years ago.
My mentor and I had lunch soon after and I told her about the situation. I felt so much better just being able to talk to someone who knew all the people involved but who wouldn’t judge me for being upset over something I couldn’t control.
A few weeks went by and I did my best to lay low, trying to move past the situation, all while having to work in the same building with this person. In a planning meeting with an executive in the company, we finished discussing the subject matter at hand and when we were about to adjourn the meeting, he looked at me and said, “I know what’s going on.” A little confused, I sat there and wondered what he was talking about. He went on to tell me that he was aware of the situation I was in and that the president of the company was also aware and was addressing it.
I left the meeting feeling relieved but a little conflicted. I didn’t want to know that I needed others to fight my battles for me, but I also didn’t know how to fight this battle.
My mentor had discreetly elevated the issue, knowing this more established coworker would not respect criticism from anyone other than his superiors. My integrity had been questioned and she was wise enough to know that the circumstances had to be halted before it got out of hand. I thought I would be viewed as a snitch if I had raised the issue, and maybe I would have. But having someone in the company who was respected for her demeanor, knowledge and experience help me fight the battle was more effective. I never asked for her help, only for her advice on how best to handle. But she knew best.
I never received an apology from the coworker, nor did I expect one. I have always felt that I handled myself with grace, never stooping to the level of spreading rumors or gossiping about the individual.
Because of the positive experience with my mentor, I do my best to “unofficially” mentor others at work. They may not know it now, and that’s perfectly fine, but someday they’ll figure it out.