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The Importance of Confidentiality in Mentoring

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Mentoring is an important part of growing professionally. It occurs when a more experienced person assists a less experienced person with professional development, normally within the same career field. Mentors must take special care to not disclose the specifics of mentoring meetings.

General Confidentiality Issues

Mentoring can be either a formal or informal process, depending on the agreement of the individuals involved and the way in which the relationship evolves. Discretion is necessary for a successful relationship with the person you are mentoring. Over time, you will learn more about his needs and vulnerability. In order to help the him grow, there must be a high level of trust, which is the foundation of the relationship.

Ethical Confidentiality Issues

While assessing the needs of a less experienced person, you will learn about his weaknesses, strengths and fears. With that knowledge comes an expectation of confidentiality. You are being entrusted with a high level of openness. It is unprofessional and unethical to disclose shared information. The relationship is more likely to be successful if you are trustworthy, and the mentee is likely to be more open if you are a person of integrity.

Legal Confidentiality Issues

In addition to practical and ethical issues, there are legal issues that are associated with confidentiality in mentorships. If a mentor decides to disclose what has been learned, the mentor may face legal implications dependent upon the information and the agreement between the mentor and the mentoree. If there is a written expectation that the mentor will be able to ensure successful completion of certain goals, the mentor may also face legal implications. When participating in a formal mentorship, the expectations of both parties should be agreed upon prior to the start of the mentorship "(See Reference 1)".

Confidentiality Agreements

If a formal mentorship is agreed upon in written form, it should include a confidentiality agreement within the written agreement or as an addendum. The confidentiality agreement may also be called a non-disclosure agreement. The confidentiality agreement specifies the expectations of the mentor and what the mentor may or may not disclose with others "(See Reference 1)". The mentor is legally bound to adhere to what has been agreed upon. The mentor and mentoree should ensure that they understand fully the details of the agreement. Overall, confidentiality helps create a safe place for growing to take place.


Alexander Sam is an avid photographer/traveler. After completing a trip across India, Thailand and Laos he decided that he wasn't made for the cubicle job. Presently he is backpacking across South America and hopes to find himself in another part of the world at this time next year. Sam studied sociology at York University.

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