Using the Velvet Glove of Mentorship to Balance the Iron Fist of Tough Times

The metaphor of the iron fist and the velvet glove is a useful means of describing the value that nurturing mentors bring to individuals working in organizations facing tough times.

Company management often takes quick, aggressive actions in order to effectively achieve its goals and targets. Sometimes a company’s very survival makes it necessary to “lower the hammer.” These characteristics reflect the masculine energy of the iron fist. However, if you are an employee witnessing such actions, the decisions can appear aggressive and cut-throat. It can have a demoralizing effect. You may find yourself obeying the boss but becoming dispirited if these harsh measures aren’t balanced by the caring and communicative feminine energy—the velvet glove.

Hopefully you have a smart leader who knows that promoting both formal and informal mentor relationships throughout the organization is the best way to assuage this employee disenchantment. A mentor provides the opportunity to consult more established staff members to safely voice uncertainties regarding company actions and decisions. If you have the benefit of this process you will feel more connected to your company, in spite of its tough actions. It can make you feel like you have a purpose and are part of a larger plan.

Betty-Ann Heggie

I had a first-hand experience with this kind of balanced leadership early in my career. We had a new CEO who was faced with overproduction and declining demand, two factors which resulted in falling prices and an unprofitable company. Tough as it was, the CEO knew he had to cut jobs and accordingly made it his first order of business to hire the best “people person” he could find. As this fellow made his rounds patting people on the back with encouragement, he pacified them and created harmony out of discord. He provided the feminine energy of the velvet glove for his organization, rectifying the dire situation created by the iron fist.

If your leader doesn’t encourage mentorship it is to your advantage to seek one out yourself. Here are a few things to look for:

1) Mentors give the benefit of their experience. Find a mentor that offers self-disclosure—this establishes intimacy, which overcomes uncertainties and stress. A mentor that has been a part of the organization for some time can help put things in perspective for you.

2) Mentors listen. Never underestimate the value of someone who listens to you. Find someone who is empathetic. It will go a long way toward making you feel validated. Masculine energy openly asserts its position, but feminine energy draws the story out from others. The best mentors will stop all activity to listen. It communicates genuine interest, sending an important message to your bruised being.

3) Mentors bring out the best in others. Find someone who encourages you to forge your own path. Spending time with someone who affirms your individuality will remove self-doubt and make you feel valued. And this will keep you eagerly contributing to the cause. Though the need for empowerment lessens as you grow, we all need others to reinforce our dreams at any stage of our careers.

Find a mentor with whom you can establish a satisfying relationship based on trust, loyalty, and mutual respect. This is the feminine energy of the velvet glove in action, and it’s smooth as silk. There is nothing like the comfort of this approach to soften the grip of the cold, hard iron fist. If you are facing tough, steely times, seek out a mentor and balance your energy.