Is my future mentor "harassing" me?

This question is in my opinion fairly off topic currently - the asker is a student and is seeking a mentor about workplace questions.

It would be one thing if this was a professional mentorship relationship within the workplace, but to me it reads a bit more like a "help me with interpersonal issues which tangentially are related to work."


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    One issue I see is that what the OP describes isn't actually a project or workplace mentor but more a sort of guidance counselor. The validity of college-related questions has been brought up on the Workplace before: Should we allow school/college-related questions? and Are questions concerning the dynamics of clubs and projects on-topic for The Workplace?
    – Lilienthal Mod
    Sep 14, 2015 at 15:16
  • Questions which are at best tangentially related to the workplace should be off-topic. However, the question which led you to make this post will likely end up as a strawman, since its on/off-topic status seems to be toggling with every new piece of information that the OP provides. A better example might be less confusing for people who did not witness the discussion on that question.
    – Masked Man
    Sep 14, 2015 at 16:54
  • I agree with @enderland - seems off-topic to me. Sep 14, 2015 at 18:19
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    can the advice in the question answers be applied to the workplace? can the question be edited to better fit the site guidelines? Are the answers of high enough quality (minus the upvotes because HNQ gets tons of them even if they are crappy) to add to the site? I think yes for all three.
    – Mindwin
    Sep 14, 2015 at 18:30
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    Two of the OPs comments on that question "I don't understand how a middle aged man who works at one of the biggest corporations in the world does not realise what he's doing is inappropriate?" and "He provides mentoring sevice to both students who are seeking employment, interns and full time workers. He's not a mentor who works for the university" Push me towards thinking this IS on topic. Sep 14, 2015 at 18:31
  • @LindaJeanne the question is fine, just remove the "I am a student" part. Furthermore, the OP already got the advice she wanted.
    – Mindwin
    Sep 14, 2015 at 18:32
  • @Mindwin -- yeah, I cross posted with you :). As I was writing that, the comments so far seemed to be claiming it was straight-up off-topic, rather than needing a tweak or two to keep it on topic. Sep 14, 2015 at 18:34
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    The main thing is that the answer may vary greatly if she is finding this person through her career services or an internal company resource. Talking to HR, for example, is only a good suggestion if she works at that company - if she's a student the best answer really would be talk with her career services team that connected them together.
    – enderland
    Sep 14, 2015 at 18:37
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    @enderland: she said she found out about him through a friend, so this doesn't seem to be university-mediated. Sep 14, 2015 at 18:46
  • Certainly the general question of what makes a good (workplace or job-hunt or career) mentor and how to work well with one seems on-topic. The particular question of whether this guy was overstepping boundaries is on the fractal edge of the topic; that seems more a general social behavior/communications problem than anything specific to workplace. (Yes there's an asymmetric power relationship; otoh she can walk away more easily than the workplace or academic equivalents.)
    – keshlam
    Sep 14, 2015 at 20:47
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    Lolita style stories are good for hot questions but I would prefer this site to focus on topics involving adult professionals
    – gnat
    Sep 14, 2015 at 20:51
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    @LindaJeanne - just because one of the two principals in the tale happens to work for "one of the biggest corporations in the world" doesn't make it on-topic. If that were the criteria, then questions about football would be on-topic (since the NFL is a $12 billion corporation). The question is currently more about academia, but perhaps could be edited into shape to become on-topic. Sep 14, 2015 at 22:07
  • @JoeStrazzere Right. But the impression I got (perhaps incorrectly) from the post and all the OPs comments is that while the OP is a student, the mentoring itself was taking place in a corporate environment. It could be that I misinterpreted, of course. Sep 15, 2015 at 1:21

3 Answers 3


To be fair, when I first answered the question the student part hadn't been mentioned. It looked like a new intern who had been allocated a mentor and she was being creeped out by him.

So when I shaped my answer, that was the path I took with it. However, shortly afterwards she indicated that she was a student and that he was a mentor that I had assumed was allocated by the university and who had been recommended by a friend. I added that to my answer, but my advice remained essentially unchanged.

It since fell out that there didn't seem to be any relation to the university or a professional workplace environment. This changed everything with regards to the contextual relevance of the question, but not the advice I gave which still applies to the workplace.

If the question were to be reshaped as a generic "workplace mentor creeping me out" type of question, then yes it would be on topic. As it reads now (and even though I'm the most upvoted answer), I would say that it is not on topic for the community.

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    The point about reshaping the question leads me to repeat the question I asked in chat yesterday for further discussion: can we edit a question so much that it is no longer relevant to the OP? In this case, it would mean, "OP being a student makes it off-topic, but the core problem is still useful to us, so let's just hijack the question and edit out the student part". I am not sure this sounds right. (This comment is not directly in response to your answer per se, but I didn't know where else to put it up.)
    – Masked Man
    Sep 15, 2015 at 4:34
  • @MaskedMan I think you should post that as its own question on meta since it's a distinct topic but should probably be explored. (My personal view is that such questions should be closed and the valid question reposted, by another user if necessary.)
    – Lilienthal Mod
    Sep 15, 2015 at 9:16
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    @Lilienthal Yes, I thought of it and realized that it is a completely different question, although this one led to it. I will post it once I go back to a laptop. :)
    – Masked Man
    Sep 15, 2015 at 10:22
  • @MaskedMan Yes, it is a good question :) I'll reserve my answer for when you get a chance to post it properly :)
    – Jane S
    Sep 15, 2015 at 10:31
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    @MaskedMan meta.workplace.stackexchange.com/q/2168/16 for context. It was a discussion here 2 years ago but I think it still holds true Sep 15, 2015 at 14:36

This question is basically the same as asking "When I am at work I need to adjust my make up during the day. What are the best business appropriate colors to match my skin tone?" It is tangential to the workplace but it is not about the workplace or navigating it. Sure people need to put on make up at work. And if it was about the appropriate time or place to do this it would certainly be on topic. But it is not.

If you can remove the context of the workplace with out significantly changing the basic question it probably does not belong here. This quesiton could (and probably should be) reworded as

My friend referred me to someone that she says can give me advice on being an adult. He creeps me out. Should I continue meeting him?

I think we can agree that question is off topic here.


This question is bit off-topic, however it does have it's merit in any relationship, with heavy emphasis on workplace ones. The author in under great stress from harassment (or just suspicion of it) and IMHO got 2 things mixed up:

  • Whenever the behavior of a superior is OK or not
  • Can the junior make a choice to avoid or terminate the relationship

I interpret this question that OP got so preoccupied with question whenever situation described constitutes harassment or not, that she forgot that she can do something (change mentors in this case) just because "I feel we don't get along well".

It is very important IMHO to make juniors sure that they can do with their work life whatever they feel like and they don't need to make any excuses for that. Acting on a hunch is perfectly fine. One does not have to accuse others of wrongdoing in order to change their lives to avoid those persons.

IMHO the root of this question is about very core of workplace relationships.

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