May 16, 2024

Prioritising Dignity and Respect in Mentoring/Supervising Sessions 

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The idea that a mentor or supervisor should be treated with respect and dignity is far from a new or radical concept: it’s foundational to the work. Most mentors and supervisors enjoy working with others, but even the most easy-going person occasionally runs into someone they find difficult to work with. This can be because of a conflict in beliefs, attitude or actions, but a mentor/supervisor should never let this difficulty come across, and should focus on empathising with the client and helping them move forward. Within the Christian world, there is the recognition that everyone is a child of God and should be treated as such. 

Burnout’s Impact

When I was going through burnout, I was emotionally depleted, withdrawn from my relationships, feeling insecure and unmotivated at work. This led to my discipline and performance slipping. One glass of wine became two, an hour of TV became an entire evening in front of the screen. I was distant and irritable with my loved ones. I was not as creative, decisive or innovative at work. Friends, family and coworkers were frustrated with me. However, I was fortunate that they did not cast me aside. Instead, they stuck with me through this difficult time and helped me to recover. A mentor/supervisor needs to remember they may be seeing someone at their worst. 

Every client is going through a personal journey, and even if they are far from their best as they sit down with you, it is important to focus on the good that they have done, to acknowledge their strengths and positive qualities and respect them as a child of God. When a soldier falls down in wartime, are they shot for misstepping? No, they are still honoured for their service. 1 Cor 15:10 reminds us that “God’s amazing grace has made me who I am!” (TPT). Without God’s grace, we would be lost, hopeless and pessimistic. We have been shown grace and can extend God’s grace to others. 

Preventing the Feelings of Disrespect

I have found that dismissing and judging our mentees/supervisees are the most common ways to make them feel disrespected or inadequate. You may hear something from your client that you find offensive politically, socially or ethically. It is still your job to treat them with dignity and to do your best to help them achieve their goals and support their well-being. You can still challenge their thinking, and step in if you sense harm will be done to your client or those around them, but if it is simply a disagreement in philosophy or behaviour, remember it is not your job to change a mentee/supervisee into a mirrored version of yourself. You are helping them experience their transformation.  

We need to be careful to keep judgements and opinions to ourselves if they will not serve the client. It can also be easy to accidentally make a client feel a certain way, even if that was not what we intended or even felt. We may find ourselves distracted by a fly in the room, but it may be read by our client that we are bored, disengaged and dismissive. Or we may accidentally frame a question in a way that feels accusatory, rather than curious. We may offer an opinion or advice that can feel obvious and belittling to our clients. These mistakes can be eliminated by considering all the possible ways your words or actions can be taken. If in doubt, do consult your own mentor. 

Reflection Questions: 

  • What happens in me when I feel judgement or disappointment in my client? How am I reacting? Why am I reacting this way? 
  • How can I honour the good in my client? 
  • Who can I speak to about my own grief, judgement or anger? 
  • How can I show more empathy and grace in my work? 

What’s Next:

– Think about your effectiveness with your mentees and supervisees. Take the Christian Mentor Assessment.

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