Expert advice

Workplace: What to do if you are a mentor being bullied by a student

Zeba Arif advises a mentor who says she is being bullied by a student because of her ethnic background.

I am an experienced mentor and am being bullied by an underperforming student because of my ethnic background. Do you have any advice?


A student undermining a mentor based on ethnicity is completely unacceptable      Picture: Getty

A recent study from Birmingham City University uncovered some alarming examples of students’ reactions to negative feedback from their mentors, ranging from manipulative behaviour to making threats and allegations of bullying. 

Students questioning the competence of their mentors may not be a new issue, but your problem – that a student is challenging your views about his or her performance based on your ethnic background – appears to be an emerging and worrying phenomenon post-Brexit. 

This situation is completely unacceptable and has to be addressed as soon as the student either expresses dissatisfaction or rejects your opinions regarding his or her performance.

Keep a record

Make sure you keep a documented record of all your interactions with this student, from your initial meeting when goals were set, to subsequent meetings when you may have called attention to lapses or identified areas for improvement. It is important that you have these to refer to. 

Always remain focused on performance issues, and be clear to the student that you will report any behaviour or language you feel is inappropriate. You should also seek support from your line manager, bringing up any issues in supervision sessions, and raise your concerns with the university liaison nurse. Informing your trust’s learning representative is also a good idea.

Casting aspersions on your competence as a mentor based on your ethnicity will undoubtedly feel personal and humiliating. But have confidence in your knowledge and ability and your wish to impart these to a new generation of nurses, and seek support at the first sign of anything untoward. 


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Zeba Arif is a committee member of the RCN nursing in justice and forensic healthcare forum and was an RCN steward for 23 years. 
@ZebaArif

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