Characteristics of Successful and Failed Mentoring Relationships: A Qualitative Study Across Two Academic Health Centers

Straus, Sharon E. MD; Johnson, Mallory O. PhD; Marquez, Christine; Feldman, Mitchell D. MD

Academic Medicine:
doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e31827647a0
Mentoring
AM Rounds Blog Post
Abstract

Purpose: To explore the mentor–mentee relationship with a focus on determining the characteristics of effective mentors and mentees and understanding the factors influencing successful and failed mentoring relationships.

Method: The authors completed a qualitative study through the Departments of Medicine at the University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine and the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine between March 2010 and January 2011. They conducted individual, semistructured interviews with faculty members from different career streams and ranks and analyzed transcripts of the interviews, drawing on grounded theory.

Results: The authors completed interviews with 54 faculty members and identified a number of themes, including the characteristics of effective mentors and mentees, actions of effective mentors, characteristics of successful and failed mentoring relationships, and tactics for successful mentoring relationships. Successful mentoring relationships were characterized by reciprocity, mutual respect, clear expectations, personal connection, and shared values. Failed mentoring relationships were characterized by poor communication, lack of commitment, personality differences, perceived (or real) competition, conflicts of interest, and the mentor’s lack of experience.

Conclusions: Successful mentorship is vital to career success and satisfaction for both mentors and mentees. Yet challenges continue to inhibit faculty members from receiving effective mentorship. Given the importance of mentorship on faculty members’ careers, future studies must address the association between a failed mentoring relationship and a faculty member’s career success, how to assess different approaches to mediating failed mentoring relationships, and how to evaluate strategies for effective mentorship throughout a faculty member’s career.

Author Information

Dr. Straus is professor, Department of Medicine, and director, Division of Geriatric Medicine, University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine; and director, Knowledge Translation Program, Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, St. Michael’s Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Dr. Johnson is associate professor, Department of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine, San Francisco, California.

Ms. Marquez is research associate, Knowledge Translation Program, Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, St. Michael’s Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Dr. Feldman is professor, Department of Medicine, and associate vice provost, Faculty Mentoring, University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine, San Francisco, California.

First published online November 16, 2012

Correspondence should be addressed to Dr. Straus, Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, 209 Victoria St., 7th Floor, Toronto, ON M5B 1T8, Canada; e-mail: Sharon.straus@utoronto.ca.

© 2013 Association of American Medical Colleges