The Role of Expectations in the Mentoring Exchange: An Analysis of Mentor and Protege Expectations in Relation to Perceived Support

Article excerpt

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. …