This is an essay.
It contains the advice or opinions of one or more Wikipedia contributors. This page is not an encyclopedia article, nor is it one of Wikipedia's policies or guidelines, as it has not been thoroughly vetted by the community. Some essays represent widespread norms; others only represent minority viewpoints.
Mentorship is an arrangement in which one user assists another user, the protégé. Depending on the nature of the mentorship agreement, the mentor may give the protégé advice on more effective editing habits and help the protégé resolve disputes. The purpose of mentorship is to help the protégé adjust to Wikipedian site processes and standards.
Mentors are not advocates. Mentors may terminate the relationship if it proves ineffective and (in extreme cases) endorse dispute resolution or other proceedings regarding a former mentoree, although mentors may also speak up for a protégé who is making good progress or smooth over difficult situations that might otherwise end in administrative intervention.
When mentorship is related to disputes an effective mentor often plans conflict management strategies with the protégé; this conflict management is most effective when other Wikipedians interface with the mentor about developing issues and potential solutions. When mentorship arises as an outcome of the dispute resolution process, the mentor occasionally accepts formal supervisory powers over the protégé. When mentorship is effective, however, it functions in an atmosphere of mutual respect.
A mentor's responsibility
Mentors should keep in mind their great responsibility. They should get to know and advise their protégé, yet also be careful to avoid doing their protégé and Wikipedia a disservice by losing sight of their responsibility to Wikipedia. Their primary responsibility is to represent Wikipedia, not to represent their protégé.
A mentor is both an advisor and a supervisor and the protégé is the subordinate. Many protégés need a mentor because they have been involved in problematic behavior caused by their failure to understand our policies and guidelines. The mentor may even be in danger of being manipulated by a protégé who has a stronger psyche.
The mentor should not become an advocate to plead a cause, but rather advise and instill respect for our policies and the good of Wikipedia above the desires of the protégé. It is the job of the protégé to adapt to Wikipedia, not to demand that Wikipedia accommodate them as they are. The mentor's job is to teach and advise the protégé, not to coddle them.
Sometimes one or more experienced editors will take a newer user under their wing. In some cases, this might arise due to difficulties the new user is having with other users or with Wikipedia policies and guidelines. In other cases, the protégé simply feels they would benefit from the help of a more seasoned Wikipedia editor. Voluntary mentorship often arises spontaneously, as two or more editors naturally develop a mentorship-like relationship. A good place for new editors to receive voluntary mentorship is Wikipedia:Adopt-a-user. In Adopt-a-user, adoption, a specific form of voluntary mentorship for new or inexperienced users, is practiced. Sometimes, mentorship is requested for special purposes, like learning New page patrol or becoming prepared to be an Administrator.
Among experienced users in difficult situations, mentorship often requires a substantial investment of time and effort. No formal mechanism exists for recruiting mentors in such scenarios, so it is best to seek a willing mentor and the agreement of the potential mentoree before putting forth mentorship as a serious alternative. Bear in mind that it is uncivil to attempt to volunteer other people's time and effort for work they have not agreed to perform. In other words, editors in good standing who think a mentorship might solve a problem should first consider undertaking the responsibilities themselves.
- See: Wikipedia:Keep it down to earth, on the futility of wishing mentors into existence
In dispute resolution, involuntary mentorship is a remedy in which one or more editors are assigned supervisory powers over another editor.
They may also have discretionary powers to modify or annul sanctions against the editor made by administrators under the terms of the decision. The precise terms of the mentorship, as well as the identity of the mentors, are usually spelled out explicitly in the decision that creates the mentorship, but may include delegation of the arbitration committee's banning powers to the mentors.
Such mentorships may be agreed to as an alternative to more serious remedies, such as bans or paroles. Or they may be an end result of the dispute resolution process itself. Users may be placed under mentorship by a ruling of the community, Arbitration Committee, or Jimbo Wales.
People proposing such mentorships usually believe that social skills, personal maturity, and other necessary personal character qualities can be obtained by the sanctioned person through occasional discussions with a sympathetic person, and that undesirable behaviors, like being a jerk or tendentiously pushing a POV, can likewise be removed. The supporters are usually affected by optimism bias (a belief that everything will work out) and a desire to avoid conflict or appear forgiving and friendly. Alternatively, they may be grasping at straws in a desperate effort to stave off immediate application of more serious remedies.
Involuntary mentorship has a very poor track record and is not recommended.