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Mentoring Process in a Business Setting

In most professions, the first years in a new position are fraught with uncertainties and problems. The need for supporting teachers and people in other professions was cited as far back as the Conant Report (1963). During the next twenty years, many attempts were make to put effective mentoring programming in place throughout the business world. This study will address the level of mentoring which exists in different professions, specifically, education, medicine, and law.

As early as 1962, induction programs that provided assistance to beginning teachers were being described (Shaplin, 1962). Mentoring in a business setting is described as being very desirable and conducive to interaction among the protege' and the established workers (Young & Adams, 2000). Medicine has long had a system of mentoring in place which is called residency. Whether nor not the condition of this process is optimal depends upon to whom you speak. Senior staff doctors would probably say yes; an intern who has not slept in 30 hours might not agree with them.

Various researchers have addressed the selection of mentors. Gray (1989) stressed that criteria for selection must be fair, attainable, and known. Carr and Dunne (1991) found that mentors who volunteered to participate in a one year induction program were more effective and committed to success. Manthei (1992) also support self-selection for mentors.

Bova and Phillips (1981) compiled the following list of characteristics inherent in any mentor-protege relationship:

Mentor-protege relationships grow out of voluntary interactions.

The mentor-protege relationship has a life-cycle: introduction, mutual

Trust building, teaching of risk taking, communication, and professional skills.

People become mentors to pass down information to the next generation.

Mentors encourage proteges in setting and attaining short - and long-term goals.

Mentors guide technically and professionally.

Mentors teach proteges skills necessary to survive daily experiences and promote career-scope professional development.

Mentors protect proteges from major mistakes by limiting exposure to responsibility.

Mentors provide opportunities for proteges to observe and participate in their work.

Mentors are role models.

Mentors sponsor proteges organizationally.

Mager (1989) concluded that literature on mentoring frequently lacked guidelines for the act of mentoring. He stated, "... understanding more about the mentors and the work of mentoring as they perform it will, perhaps, build a better tactic for addressing the decades-old dilemma of the first year on any job." (p.16). For this reason he advocated that mentor should be willing to help create the act of mentoring and should be able to deal with the ambiguities of their roles. Barnett, Kirkpatrick & Little (1986) found that "... The mentor relationship is a difficult one, but one worth the undertaking. The difficulty lies in the identification of a role - mentor - for which there is little precedent in schools or businesses." (p.8).

Purpose of the study

The purpose of this study were to: (a) identify the over-all feelings about mentoring from a selected group of teachers, medical personnel, and legal personnel and (b) to identify the types of assistance which are perceived by the mentors to be most beneficial in supporting and retaining new employees.


Hulig-Austin (1989) states that in spite of increased efforts to support beginners in the three professions to be investigated, overall the assimilation of new people into the teaching, legal, and medical professions has changed very little. Therefore, she identifies informing administrators at the local level of the potential benefits of mentoring as being one of the greatest needs in the field of mentoring.

This descriptive research study was conducted at the local level using volunteers from the educational, medical, and legal fields. The result will be used to evaluate and refine mentor programs which are already in place and to provide a foundation upon which to build new ones.


Review of the Literature

The following questions framed this review of related literature: (a) What does "mentor" mean? (b) What defines the mentoring process? - What are the needs of any new staff member? And (d) What are the roles and responsibilities of the mentors?

The areas of the literature review include: (a) History of Mentoring, (b) Defining the process of mentoring, and - What are the needs of beginning employees?

History of Mentoring

The origin of the term mentor is found in Homer's epic poem, The Odyssey (Fitgerald, 1961). As he prepared to fight the Trojan War, Odysseus entrusted the care and education of his son, Telemachus, to his loyal friend, Mentor. This education included every facet of Telemachus's life since one of Mentor's goals was to lead Telemachus using his own life experiences as a guide. (Odell, 1990a). Anderson and Shannon (1988) conclude from the Odyssey that modeling a standard and style of behavior is a central quality of mentoring and that mentoring is intentional, nurturing, insightful, and supportive.

Defining the Mentoring Process

Defining the process of mentoring is difficult. Fagan (1998) states that mentoring is like love, hate, jealousy, sibling rivalry or any other emotional experience; it is hard to define but easy to recognize. Clawson (1980) sees it as an all-inclusive relationship that extends beyond the protege's career and into his or her personal life. Hulig-Austin (1990) states that there is no magic formula for mentoring and that mentoring is, in fact, "squishy business: (p.48).

In his extensive review of the mentoring literature, Fagan (1988) summarizes the mentor-protege relationship as a product of human nature and not to be defined or described with the precision of a chemical reaction. Therefore, it is unrealistic to expect a perfect definition. Gehrke (1998) views the mentor's relationship with the protege as an example of gift-giving, with the greatest gift the mentor offers being a "new and whole way of seeing things." (p.192).

Odell (1990a) defines a mentor as an older, more experienced person who is committed to helping a younger, less experienced person become prepared for all aspects of life. The protege benefits from the guidance of the mentor and attributes successes in life to the influence of the mentor (p.61). Various researchers have called professionals who fulfill the mentor role by many other titles. But support teams Sgan & Clark (1986) seem to be the most important and easily understood of the terms.

Mentoring in Other Professions

The idea of a newcomer entering a career under the guidance and direction of a wise, experienced mentor is viewed as important in a number of contexts outside of education (Odell, 1990a). For example, businessmen who have had mentors apparently made more money at an earlier age, were more satisfied with their work and career advancement, and were better educated than those without mentors (Bolton, 1980; Roche, 1979).

Bova & Phillips (1983) found that proteges in university and business settings learned risk taking behaviors, communication skills, political skills, and specific professional skills from t heir mentors. They conclude that mentoring relationships are critical for developing professionals.

Modern interest in the mentoring process stems in part from research about adult development and psychology and careers of successful adults. Mims and Carr (1990) make a distinction between the phases of the life cycle (birth, adolescence, young adult, and mature adult), and the stages of life (specific levels of development). While adult changes are predictable, the rate of passage from one phase or stage to the next varies from individual to individual and from circumstance to circumstance. In the past forty years, many professions have worked to establish formal mentoring programs to address the needs of beginning employees and to obtain positive results.

Willis and Auer (1988) summed up the ways a mentor can help a beginning professional:

clarify his/her view of the professions, understand and cope with the inevitable uncertainty of the profession, provide personal and professional support, develop a commitment to the profession, understand the uniqueness of the organization, become socialized into the environment, understand the politics of the organizations, gain information about the company and community, develop skills needed to transfer knowledge into appropriate opportunities, strengthen analytical skills necessary to maintain a high level of proficiency.


There has been much interest in mentoring in the business setting during the past two decades.Mentoring is one of the primary vehicles that professions such as education, medicine and law use to ensure the success of those who are beginners in the organization.


Research and Design Procedures

This descriptive research study was designed to examine the extent and benefit of mentoring in the fields of education, medicine, and law. The information gathered by this study will be shared with the participants and their supervisors or mentors.

After a thorough review of the related literature, the following questions were formulated:

What is the selection process for mentors in your organization?

Who selects mentors?

What criteria are used in the selection of mentors?

What is the level of satisfaction with the selection process?

What changes would improve the selection process for mentors?

What is the procedure used for the assignment of mentors to new professionals?

What criteria are considered in the matching of mentors with…[continue]

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