Dear Corporate Governess
How do you tell your mentor you've outgrown your relationship? When I started as an intern, her advice was helpful, but now I'd like to manage work in my own way.
–Evan M., Toronto
Not every pairing lasts forever – just look at marriage statistics – so don't feel guilty. But ditching your mentor requires considerable diplomacy. You don't want to come off like a corporate Kanye West. Be confident, yes, but humble – and grateful.
This is a conversation that must take place face-to-face, in private, away from curious co-workers. And the sooner the better, before you find yourself avoiding her in the lunchroom. To soften the blow, start off with something like this: "You've been enormously helpful in launching my career here, and I want to thank you for that. I've learned so much from you, particularly on the Blockheads project. But now I feel ready to work on my own." Her feelings might be hurt, especially if she feels invested in your success. But have confidence in your decision to make your own mistakes. That's how people learn best.
It's important not to leave her feeling like yesterday's oatmeal. You might suggest meeting for the occasional lunch to bounce around ideas – but only if you really mean it. And if she lashes out with criticism, take it on the chin.
There's also the possibility the relationship wasn't working for her, either. In that case, just shake hands and part as colleagues.
Dear Corporate Governess
One of my co-workers has veered into inappropriate territory with stories about his wife (who recently left him) and his new girlfriend. What's the best way to handle this?
–Jon K., Calgary
I blame Facebook. Social media has encouraged us to overshare. But what passes for fun on Facebook (do we really need to see your drunken selfies?) is definitely not okay in a business setting. A professional atmosphere calls for boundaries about what personal details should and should not be shared. To take a page from the elder Trudeau, the state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation – and neither do your co-workers.
It's not that we shouldn't tell personal stories at work – that's how we build the relationships that get us through our day. But if your colleague has crossed that line, either a friend or a manager needs to tell this person to park his emotional baggage at the door.
Also realize this could be a cry for help. Those wild stories might be his insecurity talking. Maybe he just needs to soothe his wounded manhood with another human being, and if you happen to be in the next cubicle, that could be you. Still, don't be afraid to call TMI on the guy when he goes too far.