by Michael David Franklin | June 16, 2011
Don’t be afraid of your mentor.
Too many learners are.
Or at least, too many learners are afraid to speak up if their mentor is not turning feedback around in two weeks during the quarter, or is not responding to emails within two business days, or is not willing to help streamline feedback from committees. In these kinds of instances, learners have reason to be frustrated. They may like their mentor tremendously. But they are afraid to speak up for themselves for fear of reprimand or sabotage. They are reluctant to directly advocate for themselves in a respectful manner.
Some may call their doctoral advisor, which is highly encouraged. Doctoral advising provides perspective and coaches learners on how to create a healthy mentoring relationship. But if told that they must begin to self-advocate by sending emails on dates that feedback is due, or by persisting with a mentor to get the follow-up needed, some learners hesitate.
More than once, I have listened a learner state with conviction that they know how these things work, that if they speak up they will be penalized in some subtle way that will draw out the process even further. Some say that things may seem nice on the surface, but they just know that their mentor will get them in the long run. They’d seen it happen before in the workplace or in another educational setting. They don’t want to speak up. Therefore, they call me to see if I will intervene. If learners have consistently advocated for themselves, I will contact the mentor to assess the situation. If they have not really tried, though, I won’t until they have done so.
Please, don’t be afraid to ask your mentor to be accountable to you. There is a power dynamic between you and your mentor, but you can still work at being an advocate for yourself in a respectful, direct, and precise manner. Send emails to your mentor if two weeks have passed and you’ve received nothing. Send a follow-up email within 24 to 48 hours if you still have heard nothing. Ask for what you need. If you don’t know how to handle a situation, call your advisor. Only by doing so will you create a mentoring relationship that will help you be as productive as possible.
For your own well-being, don’t hold on to such a punitive view of the dissertation process: it will create an experience propelled by fear and prolonged by your resignation to the idea that you must accept this behavior!