6 Traits of a Horrible Business Mentor

Mentorship can be a beautiful thing, but only if the business mentor doesn’t have any of these 6 horrible traits!


Leen Sawalha

VP Product & Growth

Monday, August 17, 2015


Business mentors can be an amazingly beautiful thing. Having someone tell you the ABC’s and 1-2-3’s of how to become who you want to be is one of best things that can happen to you. Whether you’re fresh out of school, starting out in a new industry, taking on a new challenge, or even starting your own business, no one can deny that a helping hand wouldn’t come in handy.

But of course, all this awesomeness is based on the assumption that the mentor is actually good! And unfortunately for a lot of us, that is not always the case.

Whether you’re looking for a mentor, already have a mentor, looking to become a mentor, or already are a mentor yourself, there are certain traits that are just… not ideal for a business mentor to have!

So, without further ado, here are 6 of the worst personality traits of horrible business mentors that you should really try to avoid!

1. Selfishness

I’m starting you all off with an easy one here!

I think we can all agree that selfishness, in general, is not exactly a great trait for anyone to have, but it’s even worse when it’s one of a business mentor.

A mentor just can’t be selfish – plain and simple. They can’t be selfish with their time, with their knowledge, their experience, their ideas, or their feedback.

That stuff is just not right!

2. Bad Communicator

Seriously, though, who wants a bad communicator?

No one; not for your boss, employee, co-worker, heck, you don’t even want a bad communicator on your flag football team that plays on Saturdays!

BUT, it’s important to note that not everyone communicates in the same way. Just because someone communicates differently doesn’t make them bad communicators. After all, the most brilliant people usually have the most difficulty conveying their genius to others.

So before you choose a mentor or become one yourself, make sure both the mentor and mentee are compatible enough to understand one another. Understanding yourselves and one another can go a long way in patching up that communication gap.

3. Doesn’t have time for you

This may be one of the worst traits of a business mentor… No matter how brilliant the mentor may be, how much good can they possibly be if they never have time for you?!

This point reminds me of a friend of mine who used to work for a Director at a large corporation. We’d talk every day after work, and every day I would hear the same two statements:

“Leen, this woman [the Director] is amazing! She’s a machine who does it all! I want to be her in 5 years.”


“Leen, I’m going to cry! I don’t know if I’m doing a good job or not! If I’m lucky, she gives me 5 minutes of her time a day, and I have no idea what to do!”

I tried being supportive, but all I could think in my head was that my friend is schizophrenic! But as time went by and I kept hearing the same two statements over and over again, I started to understand what my friend was going through.

She started feeling frustrated, stressed out, and eventually demotivated. Even though my friend idolized her Director, and has learnt a lot from her while working under her, she still handed in her resignation within a year.

The saddest part of the whole story is that the Director was actually loving my friend’s work and, in her own way, was grooming her to become amazing. But raises and bonuses still can’t make up for unavailability. And that’s how that ended.

Moral of the story, make sure you have time for your mentee, or choose a mentor who has time for you. There’s very little you can teach when you aren’t around!

4. Extreme Skepticism

Skepticism as a trait is not a bad thing; it means you will want to question things, get to the bottom of every story, and won’t accept things at face value.

All good, right? You need a healthy dose of skepticism in order to make sure you’re being reasonable, realistic, and ready for any contingencies.

But what if a person was too skeptical? They may be considered too doubtful, to the point of having a distrustful attitude that can often create unnecessary barriers. They may even have a tendency to only see the bad side of every situation that comes along.

Extreme skepticism is not a favorable trait of a business mentor. Sure, you want a mentor who can really dig deep to help guide and warn you of things that you may have missed, but you don’t want them to be so skeptical that they shoot down every idea you have, or simply won’t let you try, fail, and learn on your own from time to time!

A business mentor needs to be someone who can show you the right way, is open to new ideas, and allows you to explore your own path and ideas, too. How would you feel, as a mentee, if your mentor is just incapable of showing you the level of trust you know you’ve earned?

5. Insecurity

This is one of those traits of a horrible mentor that no one would think about, unless they’ve personally experienced it!

You want a business mentor who will take you where you want to go. One who may hold your hand, but will ultimately let you try, fail, succeed, and then soar. And in order for a business mentor to do that, they need to be pretty secure in themselves.

Imagine an insecure mentor who is never sure if what he/she is doing is right or wrong? What if his insecurity means he will want all the recognition for himself, and not willing to give any to you? What if her insecurity means she isn’t willing to take any risks that could mean the difference between you being good and being absolutely spectacular?!

6. Not recognizing your mentee’s full potential

The cardinal sin of being a business mentor – not recognizing your mentee’s full potential.

I think this point is pretty self-explanatory and doesn’t require us to over-elaborate! It’s important to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of a mentee, understand what they are capable of, capitalize on their strengths, and push them to achieve the greatness you know they can reach. And the same goes for you, mentee; pick a mentor who sees in you what you see in yourself.

Business mentorship is one of the best ways to take individuals to great and amazing heights in their careers, but only if the business mentor doesn’t have any of these horrible traits!

Whether you’re the mentor or the mentee, be sure to avoid these traits whenever you can; that’s your first assignment when it comes to business mentorship! It’s all up to you from this point forward. Good luck!

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