Work Advice on Dealing With the Office Bully

Do we have to follow our bosses on social media? I do (on two platforms, out of obligation I guess) and feel obligated to “like” all their posts. It is exhausting.

– Anonymous, Toronto

You are under no obligation to follow your boss on social media. Your boss is not your friend. Now, some of us do follow professional colleagues on social media for a range of reasons. If you work in social media, for example, it might be necessary or beneficial to follow people you work with. Other times, you might be curious about a co-worker’s personal life or you might actually be friendly or even friends.

When following a boss, though, there is a significant power imbalance and an added layer of pressure to engage with content. As you note, that sort of thing is exhausting. It’s more work and fewer people are looking for more work. You also have to worry about your boss following you on social media, and perhaps knowing more about your personal life than is ideal. Boundaries start to blur and that can get messy, depending on how you handle social media. Do yourself the kindness of unfollowing your boss and don’t give it another thought.

Every few years, I opt to be part of a professional mentorship program. The programs vary, but the general structure tends to be matching people with the expectation of meeting regularly over the course of several months. Mentorship can be wonderful, and as a concept, is powerful and important.

I feel terrible saying this, but I’ve never felt like I give much to or get much value out of these structured programs – as either a mentee or as a mentor. But I have found informal mentoring extremely helpful and rewarding. Help! What makes for good mentoring relationships?

– Anonymous

A formal mentorship experience is only as successful as the people involved and the design of the program. Good mentoring relationships are active, mutual and always moving forward. I have found that mentoring experiences that are structured work best. In those experiences, there are clearly defined goals and outcomes. There are systems in place to create accountability, and there’s flexibility to allow the mentoring relationship to evolve based on the mentee’s needs and the mentor’s expertise. It’s helpful when there is a clearly delineated time frame and the possibility for informal mentoring to continue after the program is done.

It’s also really important for both parties to want to be involved. All too often, professionals are thrust into mentoring experiences without being given the opportunity to offer any input, without even being asked if they want to be mentored. If someone is not interested in mentoring, for whatever reason, even the most beautifully designed program will fail.

It might be time for you to take a break from formal mentoring. Or perhaps you can offer some feedback about what is and isn’t working in the current program. The real question here is why aren’t you giving or getting much value from these programs? And what, if anything, can be done to address your concerns? I wish you the best in finding more fulfilling formal mentoring experiences. That you care enough to ask this question lets me know you will figure this out.

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