How do you handle stress? How do you read or anticipate emotions? And what do you do about your intuitions? Perhaps difficult feelings can make you doubt yourself in some way. Over time, you may even find your sense of identity shifts. Perhaps your mentees are also changing as they learn.
Along with this general idea of how we deal with feelings, I also want to share some insights into the role of emotion and personal experience when you judge someone's competence. I want to help you better understand the part your conscience plays, and confront any feelings of guilt. Finally, you can consider how you and others may be hiding their feelings to portray a more acceptable 'public face'.
Guilt and conscience
- If you are striving for justice and objectivity, do you feel guilty about emotions running through your judgements?
- Do you ever get a sense of guilt about feeling inconvenienced by a learner in the workplace? For example, perhaps it interferes with fast, efficient, team working?
- Do you feel guilty when telling a learner they are failing their practice assessments?
Mentors are often in situations that make them feel guilty. They may feel stuck ‘between a rock and a hard place’ when their daily decisions can make them feel that they are not always doing the best for their mentees, if there is conflict with maintaining a service. They can feel torn loyalties if the needs and wishes of their mentees are not aligned with other work priorities or professional demands.
It can help to keep a watching brief with this in mind.
Feelings and objectivity
- Do you sometimes fear your judgements are not sufficiently objective?
- Do you ever visualise family and friends as customers or clients of your mentee?
If you are responsible for mentors, particularly those who are ‘professional gatekeepers’, be aware of the important place of feelings and intuitions. In a world where rational decisions hold sway, take time to listen to some of the less tangible intuitions of your experienced staff.
- Are you performing emotional labour in your work?
- Can and should emotional labour skills be more actively taught to learners?
- Can you read emotional labour in the learners you support?
- Are learners hiding their insecurities?
Emotional labour can be draining. It could help to arrange intermittent informal get-togethers where staff can have frank conversations about how they are managing their feelings in front of clients, colleagues and learners.