Steven W. Hays
University of South Carolina
The use of more experienced employees to assist with the orientation, training, and career advancement of newer workers. A "mentor" is "someone with whom you had a relationship at any stage of your career in which he or she took a personal interest in your career and helped to promote you and who guided or sponsored you" (Roche 1979, p. 14). As such, mentoring is an inexpensive and relatively unstructured means of career development. Understandably, it is extremely commonplace. One survey found that over 70 percent of all public managers benefit from two or more mentors during their careers (Henderson 1985).
The vast majority of mentoring relationships arise spontaneously. Older workers take younger workers "under their wings" in order to "show them the ropes." This approach is called informal mentoring; it probably occurs every day in every organization. Often, the contact is so subtle that one or even both of the participants may not recognize that mentoring is taking place. Helpful information concerning organizational norms and professional expectations is transferred, but neither party consciously considers the relationship to be that of mentor/protégé. In many other situations, conversely, employees may aggressively seek out a mentor (also referred to as "patron" or "sponsor") for direction and support. Similarly, some senior managers derive great satisfaction from the mentor role; they continuously search for new subordinates on whom they can "leave their stamp."
Formal mentoring, in contrast, occurs when an organization expressly assigns experienced employees to serve as teachers and role models for