While many managers demonstrate mentoring behaviour on an informal basis, it is very different from having a structured mentoring program. There are qualitative and structural differences between a manager-employee relationship and a mentor-mentee relationship. That’s why structured mentoring programs never pair mentors with their direct reports.
The manager-employee relationship focuses on achieving the objectives of the department and the company. The manager assigns tasks, evaluates the outcome, conducts performance reviews, and recommends remuneration and promotions.
Because managers hold significant power over employees’ work lives, most employees demonstrate only their strengths and hide their weaknesses in the work environment.
A mentor-mentee relationship focuses on developing the mentee professionally and personally. As such, the mentor does not evaluate the mentee with respect to his or her current job, does not conduct performance reviews of the mentee, and does not provide input about remuneration and promotions. This creates a safe learning environment, where the mentee feels free to discuss issues openly and honestly, without worrying about negative consequences on the job.