Confidentiality is sacrosanct in the mentee-mentor relationship. A breach of confidentiality has the potential to irrevocably rupture the mentee-mentor relationship. At a minimum, breaching confidentiality will cause considerable damage to the trust established between the mentor and mentee.

A breech in confidentiality is a difficult problem to resolve, so it is best to avoid it altogether. At the onset of the relationship, mentees and mentors need to identify the kinds of things that should be confidential, and they need to be up-front about what is acceptable and what is not. When one party thinks there is a reason for disclosing confidential information, s/he should talk with the other to obtain permission in advance.

If, however, a breach of confidentiality has occurred and you want to preserve the relationship despite the lapse in confidentiality, you can try to rectify the situation. The mentor and mentee should make clear what they thought happened and what they can do to avoid the situation in the future. It is vital not to assume intentionality, and the mentee and mentor should try to rebuild the relationship through communication and negotiation. Rebuilding can occur only if both the mentee and the mentor want to preserve the relationship.

This section adapted with permission from the Institute for Clinical Research Education Mentoring Resources, University of Pittsburgh. Learn more about PITT ICRE Mentoring.