Mentorship Ethics in Creating a Sustainable Workplace

Experienced workers have some responsibility to young or new workers to prevent PTSD and burnout. Because experienced workers are also often overwhelmed, they need the support of managers to make healthy, sustainable workplaces.

· The first step in caring for new workers is to actually choose to be a mentor and to think through the responsibilities that come with that.

· Be a role model: take your breaks, leave on time, practice self-care.

· Follow up with new workers after incidents.

· Give praise when they do things well.

· Offer feedback when they are open to receive it; invite feedback.

· Be open about how the work affects you in order to give “permission” to them to admit that they are also affected.

· Be clear about the consequences of saying “no” in work contexts; encourage people to say “no” when it feels right to set boundaries.

· Encourage new workers to voice feelings of discomfort, fear, and not feeling ready. Help them work through them.

· Help them with developing soft skills like time management, follow-through and communication. (There’s no need to be stressed about the administrative work as well as the care work.)

· Don’t expect them to know how to do everything already.

· Know that a lot of new workers will say “yes” to everything because they are excited and want to prove themselves. This does not give you an excuse to let them do everything.

· Resist the urge to push tasks you are overwhelmed by onto their plates. The goal is to reduce stress and burnout, not just move it around.

· Check in about how they are coping with the stresses of the job.

· Take the lead in crisis interventions at first so that it’s less stressful for them and they can learn from how you do things.

· For the benefit of everyone, use compassionate but assertive approaches with helpees. This prevents activating flight/fight systems and prevents a bigger crisis that in turn will activate all witnesses (including mentees). Manage your tone, face, and body in ways that help people feel safe. Attitudes of warmth, kindness and calm go a long way. (See resources on “co-regulation.”)

· Hold space for feelings when they come up in service users or colleagues. It’s usually helpful to try to understand the feelings rather than just react to and manage the behaviour.

· Celebrate the efforts and achievements of staff and service users frequently.

Since self-care is part of the work, advocate at your workplace to make space for it in the workday.

This is a sample from my resource, Self and Collaborative Care for New Care Workers and Their Mentors: Ethics and Practical Strategies for Preventing C-PTSD and Burnout (2020). Find at

Audrey is an educator, counsellor, and curriculum developer running her own business in Toronto. She writes about social services, mostly.

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