How shared experiences between mentors and protégés encourage perspective-taking among protégés

Varghese, L., & Finkelstein, L. (2021). An investigation of self-efficacy crossover between mentors and protégés within mentoring dyads: Mentoring and self-efficacy. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1483(1), 80-97.

Summarized by Ariel Ervin

Notes of Interest:

  • Mentoring can help promote a wide variety of positive outcomes in the workplace, whether it’s receiving a raise/promotion or getting an opportunity to enrich your knowledge and skills. 
  • However, there isn’t a lot of research that examines the role of protégé’s self‐efficacy (PSE) (e.g. the willingness to take on leadership roles and persistence in tackling challenging activities, etc.) on protégé’s self‐efficacy beliefs.
  • This paper consists of 3 studies that examine the following things:
    • (Study 1): Do shared experiences between mentors and protégés encourage protégés to engage in perspective-taking?
    • (Study 2): Do mentors’ self‐efficacy beliefs get passed down to their protégés if they have shared experiences?
    • (Study 3): Tests all of the research questions listed above.
  • Findings from all the studies not only indicate the presence of self‐efficacy beliefs being transferred from mentor to protégé but also demonstrates that shared experiences between mentor and protégés encourage protégés to engage in perspective-taking.
  • In order for SE to be transmitted between mentor and protégé, mentors have to be able to share experiences that are relevant to the challenges the dyad is addressing, which can, in turn, encourage more protégés to alter their initial self-efficacy beliefs.

Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract)

Our current research investigated how mentors enhance protégé self‐efficacy. Drawing from social comparison theory, we propose that the shared experience between mentors and protégés facilitates the ability of protégés to adopt the perspective of their mentors. Additionally, the perspective‐taking that a protégé engages in enables them to ascribe positive aspects of their mentor (i.e., efficacious beliefs) to themselves. Study 1 (N = 205 adults) and study 2 (N = 204 adults) adopted an experimental design (i.e., vignette study) and study 3 (N = 148 undergraduate management students) adopted a survey design with protégés in an e‐mentoring program. Results from all three studies provided evidence for the transfer of efficacy beliefs from the mentor to the protégé. The findings supported the postulation that shared experience between the protégé and mentor facilitates perspective‐taking on behalf of the protégé. Although the findings of the experimental studies showed that a protégé’s perspective‐taking moderated the positive transfer of efficacy beliefs from the mentor to the protégé, the field study failed to replicate this particular finding. Our current research findings have implications for training and developing employees.

Implications (Reprinted from the General Discussion)

Mentoring programs enjoy an integral place in academic, corporate, and not-for-profit organizations. The main objective of this article was to examine how involvement in a mentoring relationship boosts PSE. SE is a motivational construct that drives the extent to which individuals are willing to attempt challenging tasks and persist in their efforts even when faced with impediments. Organizations would benefit from having employees who are willing to commit to challenging tasks, formulate stretch goals, and most importantly commit to these goals and fulfill them. 

Drawing from social cognitive theory, mentors are able to promote protégés’ SE beliefs either through vicarious experiences (i.e., sharing their own experiences) or persuasion (i.e., providing them with constant encouragement) or by providing them with opportunities to achieve/experience mastery in certain domains. However, there is limited research that focuses on how mentors go about increasing their protégés’ efficacy beliefs. The current research focused on how a mentor’s vicarious experience augments PSE. We further postulated that when mentors share experiences and when protégés perceive these experiences to be similar to their own experiences, they are likely to adopt the perspective of their mentors. This perspective-taking on behalf of the protégé, in turn, was expected to strengthen the transfer of SE beliefs from mentors to protégés.

In their conceptual model, Humberd and Rouse propose that when protégés recognize that certain aspects of their lives or experiences are similar to those of their mentors, they are likely to experience overlap between the self and other. These scholars note that acknowledging their mentors as future selves enables protégés to adopt their mentors’ vantage point, beliefs, and values. The three studies included in this paper provide evidence for this postulation. Precisely, in the experimental studies and the field study, protégés who had shared experiences with the mentor or who perceived similarity between themselves and their mentors were more likely to adopt their mentors’ perspective. According to the current findings, the likelihood of perspective-taking is increased when they are paired with mentors who can share experiences that are commensurate with their current challenges/experiences. Hence, the three studies add to the mentoring literature by providing insight into how perspective-taking can be enhanced within a mentoring relationship and thereby improve the quality of the relationship.

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