Academic journal article Journal of Business and Entrepreneurship

The Mentoring Relationship within a Regional Public Accounting Firm

Academic journal article Journal of Business and Entrepreneurship

The Mentoring Relationship within a Regional Public Accounting Firm

Article excerpt


Formal and informal mentoring programs have been developed by public accounting firms to assist the employees in their career development. Although there is a substantial body of literature concerning the formal mentoring process, there are few studies which have compared the formal mentoring system with the informal mentoring system in public accounting firms. Furthermore, relatively little research has been done that focuses on the small regional public accounting firm.

This paper compares the formal and informal public mentoring systems within a regional public accounting firm. The comparison is made at several organizational levels within the firm using a grounded theory approach. Significant differences were found at most levels. The results indicate a greater preference for the formal mentoring system as compared to the informal system at the lower levels of the organization. At the upper organizational levels, however, a significantly higher level of preference was indicated for the informal mentoring system. Comments by the respondents revealed that there was a greater level of communication and trust under the informal approach. The research lends support to the argument in favor of an informal mentoring system and indicates that a formal system may have only limited usefulness in regional public accounting firms.


Effective management of human resources has been discussed in management literature not only in terms of fulfilling an organization's personnel needs but also in terms of the need to identify employee career interests and to match them with specific organizational opportunities (Foulkes, 1975; Meyer, 1976). Lately, researchers have shown considerable interest in mentoring and developmental relationships which constitute an integral part of the interaction process between the individual and the organization's environment (Clawson, 1980; Dalton et al., 1977; Klauss, 1981; Levinson et al., 1978). Numerous studies have indicated that personnel problems such as high employee turnover, weak professional performance, and low employee morale can be mollified by professional socialization and proper mentoring relationships (Kram & Isabella, 1985; Kram, 1983, 1985; Blank et al., 1991; Poneman, 1992).

Research on mentoring is based on adult development and career theories which posit the mentoring relationship as one which could have significant impact on the early and middle stages of an individual's career (Dalton et al., 1977; Hall, 1976). Several subsequent empirical studies on mentoring have provided significant support for this theoretical relationship (Klauss, 1981; Kram, 1985, 1986; Kanter, 1977; Mendelson et al., 1989; Phillips-Jones, 1983; Scandura, 1991; Roche, 1979). A detailed discussion of this research follows in the next section of this paper.

In spite of its recognized importance in career development, relatively little attention has been given to the study of mentoring relationships in the accounting literature. Following Dirsmith and Covaleski's (1985) pioneering paper, only three papers have been written on the subject (Pillsbury et al., 1989; Viator & Scandura, 1991; Siegel et al., 1993). All of these studies focus on the mentoring relationships within the large public accounting firm environment. There has been no research analyzing the mentoring relationships in small and/or regional public accounting firms.

The study of small regional accounting firms is important in light of the merger and consolidation of large public accounting firms which is bound to change the economic significance of local and regional public accounting firms. In the future, these local and regional firms are expected to employ an increasing number of accounting professionals. The large public accounting firms have, in the past, rendered services for mostly large SEC clients. Their pricing structure places them outside the range of most small businesses. …

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