Teaching junior colleagues can reduce anxiety. In addition, it can improve the mental health of the mentors themselves in high-pressure occupations.
The new study by the scientists at the University of Cambridge suggests that imparting knowledge and experience can also help mentors by making their jobs more rewarding.
Scientists noted, “We found that mentoring relationships provide a unique context for mentors to discuss and normalize their concerns, to share ideas for managing anxieties, and to find more meaning in their work.”
“Mentoring relationships appeared to provide an organizational mechanism to prompt supervisor and colleague interactions, which in turn facilitated a reduction in the mentors’ anxiety.”
The study follows a mentoring programme that was rolled out at one of 43 territory-based police forces in England and Wales since 2013.
Despite the pressures of their roles – including threats, abuse, snap decisions and the risk of death – police officers tend not to seek support from other officers, including more senior colleagues, to avoid “negative stigma” associated with mental health disorders. Mentoring can help fill this void, the study says.
Study co-author Dr. Thomas Roulet, University Senior Lecturer in Organisation Theory at Cambridge Judge Business School said, “The study suggests that a relatively inexpensive practice such as mentoring can help reduce anxiety among both senior and junior staff, and this could help organizations address the serious and costly workplace issues of anxiety and mental health. While the study focused on high-stress roles in the public eye, we believe that the findings may also apply to other occupations that also have anxiety-provoking pressures.”
Extracts of meetings with tutors and mentees showed that it was gainful for individuals in such occupied and frequently wild occupations as policing to have a chance to be “listened to” and to observe the way that “we’ve all experienced” certain work experiences.
The study noted, “Mentoring provided reassurance to the mentors by illuminating how other, often junior officers also experience anxiety thereby normalizing their own experiences. By acknowledging that anxieties are common, both the mentees and mentors in this study appeared to be more comfortable discussing such issues and therefore in developing different coping mechanisms.”
This study is published in the Journal Of Vocational Behavior.