Once you have established a relaxed environment, conducive to working together professionally, it is important to share expectations of the mentoring relationship. What do you think it is all about? What does your mentee expect from you? What do you expect from your mentee? These questions should be discussed as otherwise there might be false assumptions made on either side!
There are many different contexts and reasons for mentoring. Some may be quite informal and without pre determined aims; others will be much more formalised, in either case, you need to think about appropriate boundaries to the relationship and particularly to consider issues of confidentiality.
In a formal situation and probably even in an informal one, you should clearly negotiate which information will be shared and what is to remain confidential.
In general, discussions between mentor and mentee should remain confidential, however, in a formal situation, it is wise to contract with your mentee that should they reveal anything that could be seriously harmful to the mentee, the organisation or to learners and especially if you have reason to believe that a young person under the age of eighteen or a vulnerable adult is being abused that you would need to break confidentiality. Ideally, in this case you would negotiate for the mentee to take action but, as mentor, you would need to take action if they do not feel able to do this.
Each organisation should have a policy document on procedures to be followed and a nominated person to report to. As a mentor, it would be sensible to make sure that your mentee knows the policies of their organisation on equal opportunities and safeguarding.
Boundaries and Contract
In a mentoring situation, some shared Ground Rules or a contract makes a useful reference for both parties and this forms the first part of the formal action plan.
It is useful early on in the mentoring relationship to consider what things are important to both you and your mentee in a mentoring situation. Things like timekeeping, willingness to participate, how to communicate (think of safety issues here regarding mobile phone numbers, home email addresses etc), how to address each other etc. These should be negotiated and shared together, preferably written down, so that both parties have the information needed for a productive relationship. A simple contract form can be found here. See also section on documentation.
For more information on confidentiality and protection, try the following resources: