There are several tangible benefits that have been linked to mentoring (Ragins and Cotton, 1999; Scandura, 1992; Silverhart, 1994; Turban and Dougherty, 1994; Whitely and Coetsier, 1993; Whitely et al., 1991), and organizations have become increasingly interested in mentoring as a means to develop and train employees (Russell and Adams, 1997). Although few studies report on perceptual outcomes of mentors and proteges (Kalbfleisch and Davies, 1993), perceptions of mentoring participants are quite important. Attitudes about mentoring based on general beliefs and past experiences are likely to influence future participation in mentoring (Allen et al., 1997; Fagenson-Eland et al., 1997; Ragins and Cotton, 1993).
To secure the most positive outcomes possible, we must learn to develop and manage mentorships consciously and effectively, and identify what makes mentorships effective and satisfying for both mentoring partners. The question, however, becomes what leads to positive perceptions of mentoring support? The purpose of this study is to examine mentoring relationships and identify aspects of the relationship that are likely to yield positive perceptual outcomes. Specifically, we are examining two relationships. First, the relationship between antecedent factors (i.e., dispositional characteristics and organizational environmental factors) and expectations of mentors and proteges will be examined. Further, the role of expectations in relation to perceptions of actual mentoring support will be studied. Next, literature on mentoring relationships, expectations, and the importance of individual environment factors will be presented in detail with hypotheses related to expectations of a mentoring partner, perceptions of a partner, and the importance of individual and environmental factors. Following the literature and hypotheses will be an explanation of the study, findings and a discussion of the implications of the study.
The Mentoring Relationship
Mentoring is defined here as a mentor, a more experienced person, providing support and guidance to a less experienced person referred to as a protege (Kram, 1985), both of whom are working together in a mutually agreed-upon relationship. The mentoring support behaviors identified by Kram (1983) have been the mainstay of most mentoring research. Two main forms of mentoring support, psychosocial and career-related support, emerged from Kram's work and have been examined extensively in relation to many types of career-related outcomes (Russell and Adams, 1997). Career-related or career support, the more work-related construct, is comprised of sponsorship, visibility to influential others, exposure to advantageous projects, protection, and coaching. The more emotional form of support, psychosocial or social support, is evidenced through listening, caring, acceptance, confirmation, friendship and encouragement. In a mentoring relationship, as in any relationship, we presume that both mentors and proteges develop expectations for their mentoring partners and exchange behaviors throughout the relationship.
The Exchange of Mentoring Support
From previous research, it is evident that both parties, the mentor and protege, seek something from the mentoring relationship (Higgins and Kram, 2001; Hunt and Michael, 1983; Kram, 1983, 1985; Noe, 1988a; Ragins and Cotton, 1999; Ragins et al., 2000). From a more theoretical perspective, Homans (1958) suggested that relationships of any type are largely formed and maintained as an exchange where costs of maintaining the relationship are weighed against benefits received from the relationship. Within the mentoring relationship, there are certain exchanges that take place in which a mentor provides support and proteges respond with a reciprocal and related response behavior. For example, proteges may value career-related support such as that provided when a mentor offers technical advice and social support such as when a mentor listens to a proteges concerns and offers encouragement. For each of these support behaviors enacted by the mentor, a protege acts or responds in a certain way. These response behaviors reciprocal to mentoring support are interpreted and perceived by the mentor. So just as proteges are likely to value support offered by mentors, mentors, in turn, are likely to value reciprocal support behaviors from a protege such as acting on suggestions to enhance technical skills and being attentive, cordial, and friendly in response to a mentor's advice and encouragement. Based on Homans, the more valuable the support behaviors from the mentor and reciprocal behaviors from the protege, the more likely the relationship itself will be viewed as valuable.
Expectations of a Mentoring Partner
Role and relationship theorists have identified several relevant factors in the role-making process (Berscheid, 1994; Dancewear et al., 1975). For example, within the context of a situation such as work or a relationship such as a mentorship, actors are likely to learn and enact behaviors according to the actor's belief about the relevant and appropriate role behaviors (Dansereau et al., 1975). Further, just as we each have beliefs about appropriate role behaviors for ourselves, we also form beliefs about the role behaviors of others (Dansereau et al., 1975; Graen and Scandura, 1987). As roles and expectations are defined, redefined, and clarified over time, a person is more likely to know what is expected of him or her (Greene, 1972).
Expectations most relevant to mentors and proteges center on career-related and social support behaviors (Kram, 1983; Scandura and Ragins, 1993). These support behaviors, as viewed in this study, are performed by the mentor and received by the protege and include numerous and specific actions related to career and social support. Thus, our view is that a mentor enacts support behavior in the form of advice, guidance, protection, encouragement, etc. In return, a protege responds to a mentor's support behavior with reciprocal action, labeled reciprocal support behavior. Therefore, we view expectations for career and social support from both mentor and protege perspectives presuming that the mentor provides support and the protege enacts reciprocal behavior related to support provided by the mentor. The support behaviors provided by mentors and reciprocal support behaviors enacted by proteges are not meant to be an exhaustive list of valued behaviors. For example, reciprocal protege behaviors such as curiosity, interest, and willingness to exert effort may very well incite support from a mentor. Thus, it is probable that there exists a cycle of exchange behaviors between a mentor and protege from beginning to end of the relationship. However, there is a likely set of some mentoring behaviors that are representative of both mentor and protege roles and related to career and social support (Kram, 1985; Ragins and McFarlin, 1990; Scandura and Ragins, 1993).
Based on role theory and previous research, it is clear that expectations have some relevance in relationship development and that the level of expectations for a partner is likely to have some impact on the relationship (Dansereau et al., 1975). How expectations formed by mentors and proteges impact the relationship has not been researched, but goal-setting theory (Locke, 1968; Locke and Latham, 1990), cognitive comparisons (Foa, 1957) and self-fulfilling prophecy (Merton, 1948; Sutton and Woodman, 1989) provide a logical basis for estimating the impact of expectations in mentoring.
Goal-setting theory centers on intention in relation to action and, typically, the higher the intended performance the higher the resulting performance or actual outcome (Locke and Latham, 1990). Related to expectations, someone who expects more may try to attain more. Thus, a mentor or protege who has high expectations for a relationship may very well enact higher levels of mentoring support behaviors. To further explain the role of expectations, self-fulfilling prophecy, as defined by Merton (1948), was used by Sutton and Woodman (1989) to support the idea that what we expect from others will be enacted. Expectations are communicated through several direct and indirect means and an individual, in turn, will respond to the spoken and unspoken messages and respond accordingly (Sutton and Woodman, 1989). Applying self-fulfilling prophecy in the mentoring exchange would lead to the idea that a mentor or protege will communicate expectations to a partner, including support needed or expected. The mentoring partner would then respond in kind and enact, or at least attempt to enact, support behaviors expected by a partner. Taking goal-setting and self-fulfilling prophecy in combination, it is clear that we form expectations based on perceptions of self and what we perceive others expect of us. In the mentoring exchange, as in any relationship, the link between expected and perceived support is cyclical and ongoing (Greene, 1972).
Additional insight into the link between expectations and perceptions was explained by Foa (1957), who characterized the importance of expectations in relation to perceptions of outcomes in a description of cognitive comparisons made by an individual. Foa maintained that an individual's perceptions of outcomes has much to do with expectations, and someone who has high expectations and has perceived sufficient levels of support will continue to perceive satisfactory levels of support, even if actual support increases or diminishes. Therefore, there is a strong relationship between support expected from a mentoring partner and levels of support perceived. This cognitive linkage is important because if expectations and perceptions of support are strongly linked, mentors and proteges can do much, especially at the beginning of a relationship, to form a strong foundation for relationship success or inadvertently taint the perceptions of a mentoring partner. Applying the preceding theories to the mentoring exchange, it is likely that expectations will influence perceptions of a partner's level of support behaviors. To test the possible link between expected and perceived support, the following hypothesis has been developed:
H1: The higher the career and social expectations in the mentoring relationship, the higher the perceptions of career and social support respectively.
The Influence of Needs and Organizational Environment on Expectations