Anyone involved with a mentorship program? I'm looking for advice.

I’m a member of a small volunteer organization that has just started a mentorship program. We have 8 mentors working with 3 mentees each (each mentor themselves has a mentor).
I’m the program coordinator right now and I have some questions.

We finished our first quarter and solicited evaluations from the mentees about how they felt about the program in general and their relationship with their mentors.
I used an online form with specific questions and room for them to write more in-depth answers. Now, I’m kind of stuck with what to do with that information. Several mentees do not want their mentors getting the specifics of what they wrote. Several mentors want to see exactly what the mentees said.

I feel like it’s an all or nothing situation. You either share it all or none of it. If you share some, the mentors are going to wonder about the ones that are not shared. We will also get some less than honest answers or true evaluations from the mentees if they know their mentor will see it.
As of now, the mentors have all been given a general summary of the results of the evaluations.

Any advice on how to handle this?

What did you tell the mentees? Did they have reason to believe that their answers would be kept confidential? If not, chances are the answers are garbage. Only a truly glowing review will have any merit, the rest may or may not be politicaly motivated.

Provide the summaries to the mentors of the mentors (the GrandMentors), and only in general terms. Let them work with the direct mentors to provide guidance and growth recommendations. Make it clear that no direct information should be given to the mentors about where the guidance is coming from i.e. whether it comes fromt he survey or from the GrandMentors own observations.

I am in a mentorship program (BBBS).

It seems to me that it should have been made extraordinarily clear what was to be done with the information before it was gathered. In our program, they ask for a ton of personal information and are very clear at every step as to why it is asked and what it is used for.

At this point I think the best thing to do is to keep it confidential. If you feel that there are concerns with anything that was written, then it should be addressed first with the mentee (asking about it) and then with the mentor (following up the concern). It should be made clear to the mentee as to how confidential this discussion is, and in what ways.

Don’t share any of it with anybody, unless the people filling out the forms knew it would all be shared beforehand. Just use the information to make positive changes in the future.

If any of them were too brutally honest for corporate America, or provided negative feedback about the experience with the assumption that it would be kept confidential within HR, they may worry about facing retaliation or be embarrassed about what they said; ergo, the mentor/ee relationship may be damaged going forward. You might lose volunteers over something like this. Just don’t risk it.

In the future, you can make this a two-part survey with some confidential questions, preferably multiple choice (the answering of which is not tied to their identity in any way, otherwise the feedback will not be honest), and another, perhaps free-response, section–that they know in advance will be shared with their mentor–about how the overall experience was for them.

These are all great responses. Thank you.
This whole thing is very new to all of us and honestly very loose (everyone is required to have a mentor but not everyone really uses their mentor). Even the little bit of advice has helped immensely. I’d still love more comments though.

The mentorship programs I’ve been involved with have always stipulated that the conversations between the mentor and mentee are confidential. If that’s the case with your program, then you have every right to tell the mentors that the evaluation forms are also confidential.

If you didn’t make that clear up front, well, that’s the first change you can make in the program.

In any case, I agree that you shouldn’t provide any mentor with specific information without the knowledge and consent of the mentee.

I’m sorry, I didn’t respond to this part- Mentees were told that their answers were confidential. Some mentees have let it be known that they would be fine with their answers from this round being shown to their mentors. Other are not okay with it.
That’s the “share some” conundrum. Do we share the answers from the people who have given permission to share? My concern is that X and Y shared, but Z did not. Now X’s mentor is more concerned with why X didn’t share, than looking at what X and Y had to say.

The “share all” issue is a moving forward deal. A new round of feedback would be solicted in July.

I like this a lot.

If the mentees were told it would be confidential then I am concerned that you even have a question about it. Those who want to share information with their mentors should be encouraged to do so. Those who want to share information with their mentors but want you to do it for them? -> need mentoring in assertiveness and confrontation.

You might want to consider a group trust exercise in which the mentors/ees are encouraged to practice sharing real feedback, and providing first a negative, then a positive response. Have the mentors purposefully “misunderstand” the feedback and twist it into a negative comment, then let the mentees practice responding to that and explaining their real intent. Very. powerful. skill.

But this should only happen in a group setting, it can be enormously overwhelming otherwise. If there are 15 chairs around you with people going through the same exercise, it’s much easier not to take it personally. The GrandMentors should be on-hand to help those mentees who may be reacting emotionally instead of responding skillfully.

I agree, confidential means confidential this time around. No backsies.

Tell the mentors that the feedback has been collected and changes will be made going forward, but that providing individual or even group feedback would be unfair to the mentees who were assured of confidentiality.

Furthermore, mentors should be strongly discouraged if not outright forbidden from directly asking for specifics from their mentees, as this would also be viewed as an attempt to get around the confidentiality promise by means of coersion. Mentees might feel pressured to talk to their mentors just to avoid negative repercussions.

Going forward you can adjust the wording from confidential to “anonymous,” though with only 3 mentees per mentor, nothing will truly remain anonymous.