Mentoring & performance: implications for business organizations.

AuthorSrivastava, Sushmita


The linkage between mentoring roles and behaviors with performance outcomes are presently only theoretically based (Bozionelos, 2004; Kram, 1985; Dreher, 2007).There have not been enough studies to test either the process linkage or the extent of impact of mentoring process on the performance outcomes. Research so far has indicated that career mentoring adds significantly to the explained variance in rated salary progress and promotion rate over that accounted for by leader-member exchange (Scandura & Schriesheim, 1994). This paper, first, explores the relationship between mentoring and performance by examining outcomes beyond job performance to role-based performance. Second, it provides process explanations as to why mentoring would drive such outcomes with the help of a mediator. Third, it explores how two different forms of mentoring support, traditional and relational mentoring differentially impact performance to enable the organization focus on the right forms of mentoring support that would drive specific organizational outcomes, aligned to its business objectives and strategy.

Research Questions

RQ1: Do traditional and relational mentoring support functions have a differential impact on protege role based performance?

RQ 2: Do personal learning i.e., relational job learning and personal skill development mediate the relationship between traditional and relational mentoring support and performance?

Traditional & Relational Mentoring

Traditional mentoring is defined as a relationship between an older, more experienced mentor and a younger, less experienced protege for the purpose of developing and helping his/her career (Hunt & Michael, 1983; Kram, 1985; Ragins, 1989). According to this mentoring theory (Kram, 1985), mentors help their proteges through providing career functions (i.e., sponsorship, exposure and visibility, coaching, protection, and challenging assignments) and psychosocial support (i.e., role modeling, acceptance and confirmation, counseling and friendship).

The traditional mentoring is an instrumental approach that uses a transactional frame and values the relationship for what it can do rather than what it can be. Recognizing that organizations have downsized, the traditional, hierarchical view of mentoring is changing (Kram & Hall, 1995; McManus & Russell, 1997). The traditional role of an older, wiser person guiding a younger one has been undermined in an age where experiences of the past and accumulated knowledge no longer guarantee relevance in the future.

According to the relational mentoring theory (Ragins, 2010), mentoring refers to the mutually interdependent, empathic, and empowering processes that create personal growth, development, and enrichment for mentors and proteges (Ragins, 2005).Thus, as per relational perspective mentoring is defined as a developmental relationship that involves mutual growth, learning, and development in personal, professional, and career domains. Relational perspective extends our lens on mentoring from a one-sided, exchange-based relationship focused on protege career outcomes to a dyadic communal relationship with cognitive and affective processes that lead to mutual learning, growth, and development. A key tenet of relational mentoring theory is that the outcomes associated with relational mentoring have the capacity to transform other relationships in the individual's developmental network.

We contribute to the literature on mentoring and performance outcomes in two significant ways. We are testing the two mentoring theories, traditional and relational for the first time to confirm whether they are in effect, existing along a continuum of perceived quality (Ragins, 2010) or are mutually exclusive sub-constructs of mentoring. Conceptually distinct traditional and relational mentoring are likely to be displayed by the same individuals in different amounts and intensities just as it is in transactional and transformational leadership (Bass, 1985:26; Yukl, 1989). There are different types of mentoring relationships cited in research, such as peer mentoring, network mentoring, one to one mentoring, formal/informal mentoring, supervisory/non-supervisory mentoring, reverse mentoring, group mentoring that can be classified under the following broad categories of traditional and relational mentoring (Table 2).

Mentoring & Performance

We present here the concept of role-based performance as the dependent variable, which integrates both individual and organization related outcomes through the use of both role theory and identity theory that provide a holistic measure to assess the impact of mentoring integrating both the individual and organizational outcomes. Role theory provides an explanation for why work performance should be multidimensional. Identity theory suggests how to determine which dimensions to include in a model of work performance. By utilizing these two theories, role- based performance measure has been developed that includes five different roles namely job, career, innovator, team member, and organization citizen (Welbourne, 1997)

Hypothesis 1: Relational mentoring support leads to higher protege role-based performance than traditional mentoring.

Hypothesis 2: With traditional mentoring controlled, relational mentoring will be positively related to protege performance.

Personal Learning as Mediator

Kram (1996) defined personal learning as the acquisition of knowledge, skills or competencies that contribute to an individual's personal development. A person who is adept at personal learning can actively and continuously benefit from others regardless of his or her rank or career stage (Lankau & Scandura, 2007).The literature reviewed suggests that there are two important types of personal learning. One involves learning about the context of work to see the self in relation to others (Kegan, 1994; Merriam and Heuer, 1996). This type of learning is labeled "relational job learning" and is defined as increased understanding about the interdependence or connectedness of one's job to others. The second type of personal learning emphasized in the literature relates to interpersonal skills (Kram, 1996). Employees need to be able to communicate effectively, listen attentively, solve problems, and be creative in developing relationships with others in the organization. This is labeled as "personal skill development" and defined as acquisition of new skills and abilities that enable better working relationships.

Personal Skill Development as Mediator

Lankau (1996) found that mentoring functions significantly impacted personal learning. Hall (1996) suggested that the ability to regularly grow and change by learning will become indispensable for successful careers. Development will involve more self-direction, self-reliance, ability to connect with one's co-workers, and ability to think through organizational issues. Employees today need to expand their awareness of the links between actions and outcomes, listen to others' viewpoints, and build competencies through working with others (Gherardi, Nicolini & Odella, 1998; Goleman, 2001). Employees who have developed communication and problem-solving skills may feel more competent and may receive feedback about the value of their...

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