It’s a common line of thought in the area of self-improvement to do what others do so that you’ll have what they have. One of the most common ways to learn from others is through mentorship, which has been proven to be effective for learning, but what moderates how effective mentorship can be? What’s the difference between a good protege-mentor relationship and a bad protege-mentor relationship?
What a mentor does.
To understand the quality of a mentor relationship, we have to know what a mentor is supposed to do for their protege. Mentors offer two types of support: instrumental and psychosocial. Instrumental support deals with learning on-the-job skills, practices, and technical learning. Psychosocial support, however, deals with the mentor giving counseling, friendship, and supporting the protege’s social integration into the job.
A few studies have looked into the differences in protege-mentor relationships based on the demographic composition of the pairing. It has been the hopes of this research to find factors in differences in pay and position between men and women as well as between different races.
To examine the effects of perceived similarity on mentor relationships as opposed to actual demographic similarity, Ensher & Murphy (1997) studied interns at a summer jobs training program. 104 interns of varied non-white race were in an 8-week program where they were assigned to same-sex mentors of varied race. Mentors and proteges were matched in same-race and mixed race pairs. Data was collected from both the mentors and the proteges before and after the 8-week program through questionnaires.
Things that weren’t affected
- Same-race mentorships did not result in a higher reporting of mentor contact or higher satisfaction from the proteges.
- Proteges with same-race mentors didn’t report significantly more psychosocial support than those with different-race mentors.
Race didn’t have an affect on the perceived satisfaction from proteges. The reasoning will be explained in detail further down in this article.
Things that were affected
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Ensher, E. A., & Murphy, S. E. (1997). Effects of Race, Gender, Perceived Similarity, and Contact on Mentor Relationships. Journal of Vocational Behavior,50, 460-481.