Beware managers as career coaches

By Scot Herrick | Job Performance

Jan 14

Management is not set up to be your career coach if you work in a cube.

That was brought home to me by Mrityunjay Kumar over on his blog, Career Management Industry in India. In his article, Manager as a mentor/coach, he notes:

Traditionally, employees use their managers as their mentor/coach, entrusting their career development problems and goals to him. However, as I mention above, the role of a manager and that of a mentor/coach are fundamentally different and sometimes conflicting. So it makes sense to separate these roles more explicitly and ideally use different persons.

Sadly, very few, if any, organizations understand this difference in role and try to do anything about this separation. Neither do they equip their managers to play the mentor/coach role effectively and teach them how to handle the conflict in these roles. Also, while the need for coaches is understood when it comes to executives, their need is not felt for junior employees, even though they may need similar support to excel. All this causes problems for employees who need a mentor/coach, especially when their manager can’t play this role effectively.

While the orientation of this is Indian management, I’d contend the same on any continent. Management is oriented to having their employees help meet the company or department goals, not necessarily your career goals.

Some managers, of course, are altruistic enough to give good advice on your career — but most are focused on how you can help reach objectives. Not your objectives, but the company objectives.

This is an important distinction as your aspirations and goals can be very different then a department’s goals.

The lesson here is simple: make sure your career advisers are oriented to helping you achieve your goals, not company goals.

Have you used your manager as a mentor or coach? How did it work out?

  • Scot Herrick says:

    Andrew Isn’t it interesting that we need to have someone outside of our manager to do mentoring and, even better, someone outside the company?

    I suppose it makes sense given the “75% corporate churn” taking place in corporations, but it seems unfortunate in that one’s manager should (should) be the closest to understanding your talents and what is needed to move forward.

  • Scot,

    Firstly, I think everyone should have a career mentor.

    Secondly, it should not be your manager.

    In my experience, the vast majority of managers should not mentor their staff because they only have the ‘benefit to the company’ in their mind and not the ‘benefit to the individual’.

    The mentors I have had are either managers from different departments or from outside – i.e. a personal mentor. In both cases, they were there for me and my career.


  • […] I noted that management is not set up to be your career coach if you work in a cube. In Beware managers as career coaches, I noted that your manager is mostly concerned with reaching department and/or company goals […]

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