Q: My boss has asked me to mentor someone at work whom I just don't like/get along with. I'm not opposed to mentoring in general. I'm concerned that turning...

Q: My boss has asked me to mentor someone at work whom I just don’t like/get along with. I’m not opposed to mentoring in general. I’m concerned that turning down this request is not an option. Any advice?

A: The way to say “No” and get people to thank you is to make sure you make it in the other person’s best interest for you to decline. It’s in no one’s best interest for you to pretend to help someone you detest. It will annoy you, annoy the person you’re mentoring, and your boss will be unhappy with the results.

Our culture often promotes the myth that sacrificing ourselves is a noble and effective way to live. In reality, if we’re miserable, we’re just contributing to the misery level on the planet — not a wise way to help others or run our own lives.

The other strange myth many people live by is that being selfish means they aren’t team players and diminishes their contribution.

I’ve discovered that most people underestimate their inner compass for successfully guiding their career choices. Our personal likes and dislikes are often guideposts that would help us succeed if we’d pay attention to them.

Now, of course, blurting out to your boss something like, “I think Mike stinks, and I would rather face a group of wild boars than be his mentor,” is not recommended.

Instead, try something like, “I’m flattered that you think highly enough of my skills to ask me to teach. However, I’ve worked enough with Mike to know that my teaching style would not be a good match for him and that Terry has a more compatible style.”

If despite your suggestion, your boss insists that you mentor “Mike,” then reframe the assignment as teaching your co-worker a specific skill. Don’t refer to yourself as a mentor and keep your assigned teaching duties to a minimum.

Make it clear to your boss that you know your limits as a teacher and would not want to undermine “Mike” by taking on a student your teaching style wouldn’t help.

Your boss just wants your colleague to be trained. He or she will be flexible about how that happens as long as you don’t use this request as an opening to complain about “Mike.”

The last word(s)

Q: My boss constantly looks at his watch when I’m in his office. I figure he’s bored. How can I learn what this means?

A: Ask him!

Daneen Skube, Ph.D., is an executive coach, trainer, therapist, speaker and author of “Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything” (Hay House, 2006). She can be reached at 1420 N.W. Gilman Blvd., No. 2845, Issaquah, WA 98027-7001; by e-mail at interpersonaledge@comcast.net; or at www.interpersonaledge.com. Sorry, no personal replies. To read other Daneen Skube columns, go to www.seattletimes.com/daneenskube