A meta-analysis on the career advantages for mentors

Ghosh, R., & Reio, T. G., Jr. (2013). Career benefits associated with mentoring for mentors: A meta-analysis. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 83(1), 106-116.

Summarized by Ariel Ervin 

Notes of Interest: Recent research on mentoring has started to recognize that mentoring can also be beneficial for mentors, as well. Gosh and Reio furthered this effort by consolidating the potential advantages of mentoring for mentors through their meta-analysis. They examined areas including psychosocial & role-modeling mentor support and career correlate with job performance, job satisfaction, career success, turnover intent, and organizational commitment. Several key takeaways from this study: mentors were happier and more committed to their jobs/organizations, than with non-mentors; career mentoring is significantly correlated to career success; role-modeling mentoring is significantly correlated to job performance; and that psychosocial mentoring is significantly correlated with organizational commitment. The authors pointed out that more longitudinal research is needed to better understand how much of an impact mentoring can have for mentors’ careers.


Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract)

“Mentoring has been studied extensively as it is linked to protégé career development and growth. Recent mentoring research is beginning to acknowledge however that mentors also can accrue substantial benefits from mentoring. A meta-analysis was conducted where the provision of career, psychosocial and role modeling mentoring support were associated with five types of subjective career outcomes for mentors: job satisfaction, organizational commitment, turnover intent, job performance, and career success. The findings indicated that mentors versus non-mentors were more satisfied with their jobs and committed to the organization. Providing career mentoring was most associated with career success, psychosocial mentoring with organizational commitment, and role modeling mentoring with job performance. Turnover intent was not linked significantly with any of the subjective career outcome variables. The findings support mentoring theory in that mentoring is reciprocal and collaborative and not simply beneficial for protégés. Longitudinal research is needed however to determine the degree to which providing mentoring impacts a mentor’s career over time. By alerting prospective mentors to the possible personal benefits of providing career, psychosocial, and role modeling mentoring support for protégés, HRD professionals can improve recruitment efforts for mentoring programs.”


Implications (Reprinted from the Discussion)

It makes sense for provision of career mentoring to be most strongly associated with the subjective outcome of mentor’s career success. Given that for career-related mentoring, mentors are expected to provide informational and instrumental social support (McManus & Russell, 1997), it is possible that for providing such support, they need to constantly update their subject-matter knowledge which in turn helps them to continue succeeding in their own careers. For psychosocial mentoring, because the sub-factors (e.g., acceptance and confirmation, counseling, friendship etc.) represent a deeper, and more intense aspect of mentoring relationships (Kram, 1985), it is not surprising that provision of psychosocial mentoring is most strongly associated with mentor’s affective commitment to their organizations where they are developing these emotionally intense mentoring relationships. And, for role modeling, it is possible that in the act of displaying appropriate behaviors, attitudes, skills, and values to the protégés, the mentor may be motivated to enhance their own performance as a way to demonstrate how appropriate attitudes and values can contribute towards higher performance. Unless mentors themselves strive to be high performers, their efforts of modeling appropriate behaviors and skills might not be well received by protégés. However, whether individuals who choose to be mentors might be already more satisfied, committed, better performers, or more successful in careers than the non-mentors is a possibility that cannot be discounted. A meta-analysis only helps to summarize correlational associations between being a mentor and different subjective career outcomes and hence any kind of causal link should be made with a caution.

As for mentor’s turnover intent, surprisingly for either of the mentoring functions (e.g., career mentoring, psychosocial mentoring), we did not find a significant association. It is important to note that among the studies that reported associations between mentoring provided and turnover intent, only Lentz and Allen (2009) found a significant link between being a mentor and turnover intent. However, when examining the association between specific kinds of mentoring functions provided and mentor’s turnover intent, their study found no link for provision of psychosocial mentoring, and a link in the opposite direction for career mentoring, i.e., greater provision of career mentoring was associated with higher chances of the mentor leaving the organization. Although the finding about an opposite relationship between provision of career mentoring and turnover intent might be unique to the nature of their sample (e.g., government employees), the lack of significant association between being a mentor and turnover intent begs exploration. For instance, current economic conditions may have had an impact on mentors’ turnover intent. While almost all of the studies included in this meta-analytic study were from 2000 and beyond, it may be that those studies conducted during the dire economic times worldwide (2008–2010) were systematically different somehow from previous mentor intent to turnover research. Further, the association between mentor’s turnover intent and provision of role modeling was not examined due to lack of studies examining this association. It is possible that being a role model to others can increase a mentor’s inclination to stay in the organization due to the recognition and prestige that comes from others emulating him/her. Lastly, it might be also that compared to other subjective career outcomes, reduced turnover intent is a longer term benefit which should be examined through longitudinal research designs rather than the cross-sectional ones most commonly found and included in this meta-analysis. This further connects to Kram’s (1985) theory on stages of mentoring relationships which implies that we need to consider appropriate time lags for capturing mentoring outcomes, especially outcomes such as turnover intent that are terminal in nature.


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