Mentor-mentee relationships in a large Indian manufacturing organization.

AuthorSrivastava, Sushmita


Mentoring relationship is an intense reciprocal interpersonal exchange between a senior experienced individual (the mentor) and a less experienced individual (the protege), characterized by guidance, advice, counsel, feedback, and support provided by the mentor for the protege's personal and professional development (Eby, Rhodes & Allen, 2007; Kram, 1985; Fletcher & Ragins, 2007; Kram, 1996). Mentoring enhances employee skills, aids their socialization to a new work setting and improves career outcomes for mentees. Perceived and actual benefits of mentoring for mentors include visibility, sense of fulfillment, and having a loyal support base (Eby, Durley, Evans & Ragins, 2006; Ragins & Scandura, 1999).

Need for the Paper

Although more than 500 articles on mentoring have been published in management and education literature worldwide during the last 20 years, (Noe, Greenberger & Wang, 2002; Wanberg, Welsh & Hezlett, 2003), there have been limited studies of mentoring relationship in the Indian context. Not many researchers have classified the pairs based on the nature of relationship on a favorable--unfavorable continuum. (fig. 1).

As Russell and Adams (1997) note, critics of mentoring research have lamented the absence of theory-driven research.

Despite the increase in Indian management research since liberalization in the early 1990s, studies on Indian mentoring are still perceived to be lacking (Bhawuk, 2008b; Budhwar & Bhatnagar, 2009; Pio, 2007). With a large number of global companies entering the Indian market, the "war for talent" has significantly intensified among Indians, who now have a plethora of organizational challenges, leading to a problem of employee motivation, commitment, and retention. It is therefore vital for managers and employers to focus on career and talent management strategies such as mentoring (Bhatnagar, 2007). There appears only three studies (Baruch & Budhwar, 2006; Budhwar & Baruch, 2003; Gentry, Weber & Sadri, 2008) that referred to workplace mentoring in India. We found no systematic examination of the dynamics of work-based mentoring among Indians.


The study was conducted in a large manufacturing organization, noted for its legacy of developing several generations of leaders through an on-going process of informal mentoring, over decades. On account of the changing competitive landscape and its ambitious growth and globalization plans, the company realized the need to focus on mentoring its young breed of technical hands, recruited in large numbers from the best engineering colleges in the country and encourage the talent to develop roots in the organization. It is believed, that to a large extent, the relationship of the juniors with their seniors, through programs such as mentoring, would considerably influence the progress of human resource development in the organization. Moreover, it is the only organization which gives mentoring in a formally structured manner. Special permission has been taken from the respondents to use this data for research purpose. Both the researchers discussed the transcripts. This helped in making a more objective analysis to increase the validity of the study.

The current research was primarily a qualitative study spread across 3 months. However, in order to classify the pairs based on the nature of relationship on a favorable--unfavorable continuum, the quantitative study was done in the first stage. Both the mentors and mentees were administered same set of questions to check the consistency of the response given by both on similar questions for a fair assessment of the relationship. This was done to increase the credibility of the study. The quantitative assessment resulted in 4 kinds of pairs as shown in Table 1.

In order to identify pairs where both mentors and mentees perceived their relationship to be favorable / unfavorable, 14-item coded questionnaires (Ragins, Cotton & Miller, 2000) was distributed separately to all the 88 mentees and their 44 assigned mentors (ratio 2:1). The mentors and mentees were invited for an informal feedback session by the researchers. The items measured the extent of acknowledgement of the relationship (e.g. how well does the mentor/mentee know you / how well do you know the mentor/mentee), satisfaction with the matching process (e.g. did you find mentor/mentee of your choice), evaluation of the program (e.g. To what extent could you freely talk to your mentor/mentee about anything) and frequency of meetings (e.g. on how many occasions in the last one year have you met your mentor/mentee). The above mentor & mentee satisfaction scale had a reliability of 9.54 and 8.5 respectively.

The questions in the qualitative interviews were designed to assess the mentoring relationship. (Appendix 2). The questions probed the mentors on issues such as their awareness about the developmental needs of the mentee, the motivation of the mentor and the steps taken to address them (Appendix 1). Interview was also conducted with mentees. It should be noted that a semi structured interview format was followed in-order to facilitate further probing to facilitate an in-depth analysis of the relationship.


44 mentors who were senior executives of the organization with over 20 years of work experience (35 male mentors and 9 female mentors). 88 mentees (engineers selected through rigorous selection procedures from the most premier and prestigious engineering institutes of India; 65 male mentors and 23 female mentees). Age Range: MENTORS--35 years--45 year, MENTEES--22 years--26 years.

The qualitative study was inductive in inquiry, which began with close reading of text and attempting to uncover the less obvious contextual or latent content. The researchers attempted to understand the participants' experience and understanding of the phenomena. The interview transcripts were analyzed for content related to themes coming from the complete experience of their relationship so far, including the positives and the negatives. For example the varying connotations associated with particular words used by participants in Hindi and the degree of interaction and enthusiasm was subjected to content analysis. Even the body language of the participants was interpreted.

The coding of data identified the frequent occurring themes (Table 2). This study did not use software packages like Nvivo/MaxQDA because the tools only help in recording and organizing and could not substitute for the intellectual effort in coding the data.


Based on the responses of the participants propositions have been framed. Some of the responses along with interpretation are listed here to elucidate the nature of exercise undergone.

Human needs as defined by Maslow are the...

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