Academic journal article Journal of Humanistic Counseling, Education and Development

Mentoring and Relational Mutuality: Proteges' Perspectives

Academic journal article Journal of Humanistic Counseling, Education and Development

Mentoring and Relational Mutuality: Proteges' Perspectives

Article excerpt

This article discusses the concept of mentoring as a mutually beneficial relationship in which both the mentor and the protege grow as a result of their relational connection. It identifies the characteristics of mentoring from the perspective of diverse college students. Results suggested that mentoring is perceived as important for success and that neither race nor gender were perceived as critical influences on the mentoring process but that friendship, nurturance, open-mindedness, and trustworthiness are key to mentoring relationships.


Interest in the role of mentoring in education, business, and career development has served to define the activity and generate empirical research (Russell & Adams, 1997). More recent research has focused on the place of adult women (e.g., Burke & McKeen, 1997) and young people (e.g., Mullen, 1997) in the mentoring process. General themes in the research seem to focus on five major aspects of mentoring. This present study adds a different perspective to this extensive and developing literature.

The five themes in the mentoring literature are definitions, functions, influential structural and organizational aspects, alternative forms of mentoring, and the relationship between the mentor and the protege (Russell & Adams, 1997). Definitions of mentoring range from the simple and romantic images of Greek mythology's Mentor (Hardcastle, 1988; Russell & Adams, 1997; Shandley, 1989) to the complex, multivariate processes of structured human interaction within institutional contexts (Chao, 1997; Kalbfleisch & Davies, 1991; McManus & Russell, 1997; Parkay, 1988; Ragins, 1997). The functions of mentoring have been explored within the areas of career development, psychosocial dimensions, and role modeling (Chao, 1997; Kram, 1985; Russell & Adams, 1997).

The mentoring literature also includes studies on the structural and organizational characteristics that promote or limit positive mentoring (Allen, Poteet, & Burroughs, 1997; Ragins, 1997; Scandura, 1997; Serlen, 1989; Wilson, 1988). For example, this theme within the literature is reflected in Ragins's discussion of differential access to power within organizations, particularly for traditionally nondominant groups, and Scandura's distributive and procedural justice. Another theme within the literature is forms of mentoring that are alternatives to formal, one-to-one mentoring relationships. Several studies have identified various forms through which guiding and supportive human interaction occurs, including peer and group mentoring (Mullen, 1997; Russell & Adams, 1997) and informal as well as natural supports (Mullen, 1997; Redmond, 1990).

The theme of mentoring relationships has been widely discussed in the literature from the perspectives of the developmental sequence or phases of mentoring (Chao, 1997; Gehrke, 1988a, 1988b; Kram, 1983, 1985); differences between formal and informal mentoring (Chao, Walz, & Gardner, 1992; Fagenson-Eland, Marks, & Amendola, 1997; Gerstein, 1985; Noe, 1988; Redmond, 1990), mentoring with nondominant groups (Burke & McKeen, 1997; Dreher & Dougherty, 1997; Kalbfleisch & Davies, 1991; Mullen, 1997, 1998; Ragins, 1997; Wilson, 1988), and characteristics in both the mentor and the protege that promote positive mentoring (Allen et al., 1997; Noe, 1988; Parkay, 1988).

This mentoring relationship theme also includes a few articles that have identified interactive qualities of relationships. These promising works have explored the qualities of altruism and "other-oriented empathy" (Allen, et al., 1997); listening to, caring about, and cooperating with one another (Redmond, 1990); friendship, modeling, acceptance, confirmation, and counseling (Chao, 1997); and authenticity and mutual gain (Gehrke, 1988a, 1988b).

Although the literature demonstrates many fruitful directions of investigation, our critical reading of it fails to locate an investigation of mentoring as it is firmly grounded within a complex and mutual relational process. …

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