The term mentor originates in Homer’s epic poem, the Odyssey written over 2500 years ago. Odysseus must leave his infant son, Telemachus, and go off to war. He puts a close friend, Mentor, in charge of his son. What’s so fascinating is that when Telemachus is a young man, Athena, goddess of wisdom, decides to disguise herself as Mentor when she approaches him. At this time, Telemachus is oppressed by the suitors and missing his father. Athena galvanizes him to stand up to the bullying suitors and inspires him to undertake a journey to find his father.
This is exactly the power of mentoring. It’s transformational. It gives confidence and demands courage to move beyond one’s safe-place or metaphorical “home” and travel to unknown places. I was amazed to find out that in the Public Service in British Columbia, all government employees, not just the executives, can avail themselves of a performance coach. They are all encouraged to spend time with a Mentor. The BC Public Service tells its employees what they can expect:
- Expanded leadership capacity
- Increased accountability and commitment to business results
- Heightened self-awareness, confidence and resilience
- Inspired vision for the future
- Enhanced relationships, engagement and productivity
- Optimized individual, team and organizational performance
- Strengthened interpersonal communication and ability to manage conflict
- Increased clarity about what motivates you at every phase of your career
Now, compare that list of expectations from one’s career with the list below compiled by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety that outlines what to expect when you are bullied at work:
- Feelings of frustration and/or helplessness.
- Increased sense of vulnerability.
- Loss of confidence.
- Physical symptoms such as:
- Inability to sleep.
- Loss of appetite.
- Psychosomatic symptoms such as:
- Stomach pains.
- Panic or anxiety, especially about going to work.
- Family tension and stress.
- Inability to concentrate.
- Low morale and productivity.
It’s time organizations followed in the footsteps of the BC Public Service and created workplaces that were built around the concept of mentoring rather than bullying. We all have a divine-like capacity to mentor young people by sharing our wisdom and coaching them to have courage and take on challenges.