Friday, April 23, 2021
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    Pandemic Call for Reverse Mentoring – A Paradigm Shift of Mentors to Mentees by Dr. Muskan Nagi

    Let’s begin with a quote from the doyen of science, Mr. Albert Einstein, who once said- ‘Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death’. Sometimes you have to swallow back your words, eat your ego, chew your pride and humbly accept your mistakes- not to give up but to grow up in life. All you need to do throughout your life is ‘grow’ through it rather than just go through it. To grow, one needs to be stubborn about their learning goals, but flexible about their methods to achieve them. COVID-19 has turned the world upside down, downside up, outside in and inside out. When everything around us has gone topsy-turvy, how come the behavioral patterns, learning attitudes and work culture be left behind? Elders have turned young, while young people have turned elders in terms of learning in the field of information technology, computing and Internet communications. That’s the reason it’s very appropriate to call this pandemic the fountainhead behind injecting a host of new SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) into our old ways of life. In this context, a new tool called ‘Reverse mentoring’ wherein mentor puts on the role of a mentee and vice-versa; exchanging their skills and knowledge, has gained steam to develop efficient future leaders for organizations especially after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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    The concept of reverse mentoring, a highly effective mutual learning experience, dates way back to the year 1999 by Jack Welch who was a former Chief executive of the general electric company.  To undertake pairing of employees in their 20s and 30s was Jack’s brainchild as he showed an untried ingenuity to break through the shackles of the traditional senior-junior approach so that the youngsters of the organization can serve as mentors to the boomers to keep them updated on the technological know-how in the field of internet and other new technological innovations.  

    A paradigm shift has been witnessed in the people’s working style who switched their roles from being a mentor to mentees to keep up pace with the ever changing world gripped by a new disease in the backdrop of rising dependence on technological advancements. Perceiving it as a blessing in disguise, the enforcement of the lockdown forced the entire family across all age groups to live under one roof day in and day out, enhancing closeness, promoting harmony and boosting ties among each other. It was the time when senior citizens of the house felt duty-bound to gain insights into the technological wonders of the internet to stay connected with the outer world.

    Many of us might find striking similarities and draw amusing resemblances in the forthcoming lines depicting how seniors looked up to juniors to get guided and taught in the home itself in order to learn new things and get hold on new technology. The retired grandfather would ask his grandson to help him sign up into a famous social networking site to reconnect with his old friends to pass away his time or learn how to scan news agencies, while the grandmother requesting her daughter-in-law how to make a video call, or browse the website to watch her favorite TV shows online or download hymns from Youtube. The father would be obliged to bribe his son with sweets or play station so that he could devote his time in helping him the operational procedures of GoogleMeet to attend his professional get-togethers. A daughter would assist his mother in uploading new recipes on her newly formed channel so that she could continue with her culinary skills utilizing the online platforms and expand her clients’ base making better profits. 

    CHALLENGES TO REVERSE MENTORING: 

    The five generations spanning Traditionalists (born prior to 1946), the Baby Boomers (born between 1946-64), the Gen X (1965-76), the Millennials (born between 1977-97), and the Gen 2020 (born after 1997) are oddly juxtaposed with each other as things have changed pretty quickly in the technological realm in the past few decades. The traits like self-esteem, insidious egos, blind faith in deep-rooted thought process and shyness are some of the blocking factors in the course of learning growth of the senior citizens at home or across other various organizational establishments. At times, they tend to feel inferior or isolated to approach juniors in terms of age, experience or position to learn a new skill from them. To address this loophole, the need of the hour is to create conducive ecosystem and friendship-oriented atmosphere so that seniors could feel at ease to solve their doubts or gain new insights into the unexplored world of technology feeling no hesitation or inhibition in holding the hand of the younger generation. The wide gap in the technological knowledge among generations is expected to be fulfilled by the active adoption of reverse mentoring into our working styles. The time has come to embrace this two decades old concept with new fervor and open-minded outlook to get maximum advantage from it with a sole objective to make aging generation internet-savvy, and above all, to foster mutual understanding and growth across humans of all ages. It’s important to quote befitting line in this regard ‘Never stop learning, because life never stops teaching.’  Therefore, whether you are a mentor or mentee, the objective should be focused on learning new things at any phase of your life and willingness to swap your role with the person younger in age but elder to you in experience and competence level.

    Dr. Muskan Nagi
    Assistant Professor
    Gulf University, Bahrain

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