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Issues of Power

By the nature of the relationship, as a mentor you are automatically in a power up relationship over the mentee. Your role should be to empower the mentee. In a formal situation you can equalise the power as much as possible by ensuring that the mentee is informed about the purpose and parameters of the relationship by means of A Mentee Handbook or Mentee Guidelines. They should also be aware of what to do if the mentoring relationship fails to work and to have an opportunity to change mentors should this be necessary.

You also need to be aware of characteristics which impact on power such as:

  • Gender
  • Sexuality
  • Race
  • Culture
  • Religion
  • Age
  • Disability

These apply both to you and to your mentee. For further information, try

How empowered are you and how empowered is your mentee? How do you know this?

What do you do which empowers others and what do you do that may disempower them?

A simple look at the power continuum is the push/pull model which can be found here.

Carl Rogers is accepted as a definitive model for empowerment. He introduced the idea of an internal locus of evaluation which described the way in which a person is able to evaluate information, rely on their own judgment and to make their own decisions. A mentee with an external locus of evaluation will be too dependent on the opinions, advice and guidance of others. As a mentor, you should always reinforce the mentee to take their own power and responsibility for their judgments and decisions. This avoids the risk of becoming trapped in an unhealthy power up/ power down relationship. (Rogers, Kirshenbaum& Henderson, 1989)


Rogers, C., Kirshenbaum,V. And Henderson (1989) The Carl Rogers Reader Houghton, Mifflin and Harcourt.