The Role of the Anti-Mentor

I’d like Michael Scott to be my mentor…in hilarity.

Well folks, I’m still working on Making Good, and I came across a really interesting concept while reading the other day. As we craft our office personas, we often speak of paragons and mentors who have shown us what we want to be to our coworkers, students, families and friends. These positive forces have shaped us admirably, and hopefully we are thanking these people for their essential roles in our development…?

But, as we know, physics dictates that there are equal, but opposite, forces at play in the world. So for there to be influences from mentors to make us the workers we are today, there must be an equal but opposing force at play. Making Good even gives it a name: the anti-mentor. Anti-mentors don’t just have to be horrible bosses either. Anti-mentors are simply people from who you learned…how not to be.

I’m sure there’s physics at work here. Somehow.

For my part, I have anti-mentors with whom I consider myself to be very close, but there are elements of my style that I consciously do not emulate. A person is rarely unilaterally either one or the other- you can take the good and the bad from each person you come across. And I think that’s just fine. Much like we tell students that internships are as much about deciding what you don’t want to do as what you do, our experiences with coworkers and supervisors are as much about deciding how we wouldn’t conduct ourselves should we land in that role, as how we would.

I like to think of an anti-mentor as a sort of blessing. Think about the ultimate bad boss on TV: The Office‘s Michael Scott. While his bumbling was at times both frustrating and uncomfortable, he had indisputable moments of brilliance and warmth that any of us would love to see in a boss. (His reaction to Stanley’s insubordination and his sale of Michael Scott Paper Company to Dunder-Mifflin come to mind as great examples). And as I said before, since a person is generally neither “all mentor” nor “all anti-mentor”, you may have something to learn from the alter ego of Agent Michael Skarn or any other anti-mentor you might be thinking of. So when you next feel tempted to thank your mentors for who you are, equalize forces and thank your anti-mentors as well (provided you have a good relationship with them, of course!). They could have as much to do with your successes as those who typically get your praise and attention.

Do you have anti-mentors? What have you learned from them?

One thought on “The Role of the Anti-Mentor

  1. Great post, Amma! I think the idea of "anti-mentors" is so powerful. Though frustrating, I think some of the best leaders, supervisors, and mentors grow from uncomfortable situations with these types of people. It's also a test of our integrity and how we handle these unideal relationships.

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