A compilation of tips and resources.

Mentoring Compacts & Agreements

Purpose & Goals Potential Pitfalls

  • Make expectations clear
  • Set in stone
  • Structure to mentoring relationship
  • Mutual agreement – document as foundation of relationship
  • Accountability – if one party is falling short, we have a tool to revisit
  • Showcase values of mentor and lab
  • Consistent communication
Potential Pitfalls

  • Pushback from mentees
  • Context-dependent: lab vs. working from home; computational vs. bench
  • Drift in actual behavior
  • Still need to reinforce values through relationships and one-on-one meetings
  • Without conversation, can feel like a rigid contract
  • Picking the right time to begin or revisit
  • What is the purpose of the document?
  • Intimidating or patronizing tone
  • Updating a document to target an individual
Creating Your First Compact
  • PI can create first draft, then invite comments
    • Alternatively, co-draft with mentees
  • Dedicate a lab meeting (or more) to work on it together
  • More buy-in with team approach
  • Start with values, then add on expectations for mentor and mentees
  • Flexibility – what is a consistent expectation for everyone? What should be flexible to meet the mentee where they’re at?
Potential Sections and Approaches
  • Separate policies into a different document
    • Time off
    • Onboarding/offboarding steps
    • Facilities
    • Key contacts
    • Important resources
    • Key protocols
    • Conflict resolution
    • “Nuts and bolts”
  • Adapt for particular trainees?
    • High school students –
    • Undergrads – expectations for grading if enrolled in research-for-credit courses
    • Postbacs –
    • Grad students –
    • Postdocs –
    • Techs/lab managers –
    • Trainees can see different expectations
  • Tone
    • Formal tone can feel like a legal document
    • Informal tone can feel more supportive and conversational (I will do… vs. the PI will do…)
  • Bullet points
    • Lots of text may not be read and can feel overwhelming
    • Be specific
  • Consistency vs. flexibility
    • Some trainees (PhD students) have particular milestones in place, so you may not have to replicate those expectations
    • Individuals for trainees – professional development, career goals, meeting schedule
  • Invitation to ask for the support you need to be successful
  • Table of responsibilities for mentor and mentees to show how they complement each other
  • Once per year or when many new people start – dedicate a lab meeting to update together
  • Each new trainee – revisit compact along with their IDP once/twice per year
    • Can combine with long-term project planning
  • If someone isn’t meeting the agreed expectations
    • Face to face conversation
    • What’s the observed behavior?
    • What’s going on? (invite disclosures)