mentors over managers

Mentors over Managers: Millennials Speak

If you come across any millennial today, there will be a uniform demand or expectation of formal mentoring in the workplace. While the conventional workforce preferred working in a vertical hierarchy, millennials today prefer mentors over managers. In fact, this whole conversation around mentors over managers is quite interesting. On the one hand, some argue that managers can be great mentors. On the other hand, some like to have different managers and mentors as they believe that the level of comfort for a mentoring relationship is difficult to achieve with managers.

Either way, millennials today believe that a mentoring relationship is very important for their personal and professional growth. In fact, they are voicing their opinion of replacing managers with mentors, bringing in a new work culture altogether. The reason behind this shifting focus is simple. When you hear the term managers, a figure with great authority comes to your mind. However, when one imagines a mentor, more of a guiding hand is the picture that frames. Invariably, mentors over managers is the theme, the workforce of today is gunning after. Again, the reason isn’t too complex. Millennials are inclined more towards their own growth rather than just minting money for their employer. However, one cannot negate the role a manager plays in the life of a professional. Let us have a look at how a mentor is different from a manager-

mentors over managers


Let us start with the very basic thing of what the person in question focuses on. Managers, with their goal to strive for organizational excellence, focus only on those targets that satisfy them. Invariably, when an individual goes to a manager with any issue at hand, the manager will turn it around in a way which satisfies the organizational goals. Mentors, on the other hand, strive for the personal and professional development of the individual. Their guidance will definitely have an impact on the organizational success. However, it does not become the centre of attention. For mentors, the focus is to ensure that the individual is able to grow and reach new heights.

Why millennials prefer mentors over managers is evident now. The former help them achieve the goals they set, rather than simply focus on what the business demands. Do you feel that your manager is actually helping your map your goals with organizational goals and helping you navigate the way to realize your aspirations? Consider yourself amongst the lucky few who have a mentor and a manager, all rolled into one!

The View

The next difference between managers and mentors come from the perception people have about them. Simply put, managers and mentors differ in the way people look at and perceive them. When you talk about managers, they are always seen as authoritative figures. It is seldom that you will present your view point to a manager, if you are in disagreement. Since they give a vibe of authority, individuals tend to maintain a distance from them. However, when it comes to mentors, the image becomes more soothing and appealing. It becomes that of a guiding figure. Most millennials contend that they feel very comfortable in voicing their view point in front of the mentor. The rationale is that the former are not fearful of the authority of the latter, whereas managers always carry some baggage of authority. 

It goes without saying that as millennials are more vocal than their predecessors, having mentors over managers makes more sense. Different organizations are achieving this in different ways. Take Recro, for instance. We believe in a flat organizational structure, where everyone is encouraged to voice their individual opinions and all senior members (in experience) of the team, are seen more as the guiding lights, than giving orders.

The Relationship

The next and one of the most crucial differences between managers and mentors lies in the relationship. A relationship with a manager is often very formal, seldom leaving any scope for discussion beyond the defined scope of work. Invariably, it is a relationship of one way communication. More often than not, the manager provides all the answers to the individual and expects following of the same. This leaves little room to unleash the creative potential, something that millennials expect and demand. A mentoring relationship, on the other hand, is always a two- way street. It would be rare to see a mentor giving their mentee the answers. Rather, the former helps the latter to navigate through the situations to unveil the answer for themselves.  

What is fairly obvious here is that mentors offer millennials the space to make decisions for themselves and equip them with the right tools to face the consequences. No wonder millennials prefer mentors over managers. They see the potential for growth, learning from one’s own mistakes.

Nature of Conversation

As the nature of relationship changes, so do the conversations. When one refers to a managerial relationship, the conversations are always very structured. Not only are the interactions top down, they revolve only around the organizational values and goals. They rarely digress from the topic in hand. A mentoring relationship, on the other hand, revolves around candid conversations that are often unstructured. While most mentors and mentees initiate a conversation with specific points to ponder, they seldom stick to only those points, and go with the flow. 

Millennials’ inclination towards mentors over managers also stems from the open dialogue and communication that mentors bring along. Unlike in a managerial relationship, they can speak their minds too, in place of just listening to the instructions. 

Way Forward

While we talked about the major differences between managers and mentors throughout the relationship, difference also plays out when the relationship reaches its end. Since a managerial relationship revolves simply around project targets and goals, it is short lived and ends with the project/ role itself. It seldom surpasses the duration of role. A mentoring relationship, on the other hand, rarely has a designated endpoint. It may continue for as long as the mentor and mentee wish it to. One unique element of a mentoring relationship is the mentor eventually becoming a sponsor for the individual and opening new doors and networks for him/ her.

Most of the times millennials prefer mentors over millennials for the longevity of the relationship too. The see a managerial relationship as merely transactionary. While the mentoring relationship comes to them as something that will help them explore new avenues and stride higher on the growth ladder.

Mentors over Managers: The Verdict 

While there is no doubt that a mentor plays an extremely important role in a millennial’s life, one cannot generalize this demand and expectation. Both mentors and managers have a significant role to play in a person’s development. However, if given a choice, millennials go for mentors over managers, because they seem to better fit the new culture they are looking to work for. If you are a millennial and seeking roles with mentors over managers, do write to us. We love those who strive for growth and mentoring!


At Recro we combine Design Thinking, Lean and Agile to help you achieve market-leading  performance.

We partner with our clients with the aim to transform their business challenges into growth opportunities.