Preventing and Solving Problems
Usually, the relationship between a participant and a mentor goes smoothly. Be Patient! It takes time to get to know one another, to establish expectations, and to build a productive relationship. However, doing these things at the outset can prevent problems in the long run.
Here are a few tips to keep everything running smoothly.
- Maintain open lines of communication. Make sure you can communicate with your participant. As a good mentor you should practice careful listening, repeat your understanding of his/her points, and ask whether you have understood correctly.
- Build confidence. Participants who feel confident about their role in your laboratory will usually not develop conflicts with you or with others.
- Encourage questions. A participant who feels free to ask you questions will also feel comfortable talking to you about concerns.
- Treat your participant as a unique individual. You may have been a mentor many times before, but don’t assume that what worked well with one person, or even the past ten people you have mentored, will work with this one.
- Don’t abuse your authority. Don’t ask your participant to do personal work for you or perform tasks that are not relevant to his/her development as a professional.
Despite everyone’s good intentions, problems may develop. It is important for you to recognize these warning signs of problems:
- Poor attendance
- Lack of focus or interest
- A sense of growing frustration
- Lack of productivity
- Inappropriate behavior in the workplace
If you notice any of these behaviors, you may contact your program’s coordinator for help in dealing with them.
Some general guidelines for dealing with these warning signs or with full-blown problems include the following:
- Meet with the participant to try to identify his/her concerns. You might say that you have observed a specific behavior, and would like to know if there is a concern or problem he/she would like to discuss.
- Document the problem and the meeting. It is important that you make notes of your concern and detail the meeting and steps you are taking to help resolve the problem.
- Involve others for help, realizing that you may be part of the problem. The human resources staff or the diversity coordinator at your facility may be good resources to help you find reasonable solutions to all problems related to hosting participants. ORAU/ORISE staff members are always available to provide advice and guidance and to take appropriate action on your behalf.
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