Mentoring others: A dispositional
and motivational approach
Tammy D. Allen
Department of Psychology, University of South Florida, 4202 East Fowler Avenue,
PCD4118G, Tampa, FL 33620-7200, USA
Dispositional and motivational variables related to the propensity to mentor others and to the
provision of career and psychosocial mentoring were examined. Results indicated that prosocial
personality variables (other-oriented empathy, helpfulness) related to willingness to mentor oth-
ers and also accounted for unique variance beyond variables associated with life and career
stages. Other-oriented empathy related to actual experience as a mentor. Results also indicated
that motives for mentoring others diﬀerentially related to psychosocial and career mentoring.
Ó2002 Elsevier Science (USA). All rights reserved.
Individuals who mentor others are widely recognized as playing a vital role within
organizations. Mentors are typically deﬁned as individuals with advanced experience
and knowledge who are committed to providing support to and increasing the career
advancement of junior organizational members, their prot
ees (Kram, 1985). Fur-
thermore, mentors serve as a key source for ensuring the continuation of knowledge
within organizations and for grooming junior employees (Kram & Hall, 1996).
Mentoring relationships continue to be recognized as an important aspect of career
development for both mentors and prot
ees (cf. Dreher & Ash, 1990; Kram, 1985;
Support for this research was provided by a University of South Florida Research and Creative
Scholarship Grant. The author thanks Mark L. Poteet for his helpful comments concerning the
manuscript. Earlier versions of portions of this research were presented at the 14th Annual Conference of
the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Atlanta, GA and at the Academy of
Management Meeting, Toronto, Ont., August, 2000.
E-mail address: email@example.com
Journal of Vocational Behavior 62 (2003) 134–154
0001-8791/02/$ - see front matter Ó2002 Elsevier Science (USA). All rights reserved.
Scandura, 1992; Turban & Dougherty, 1994; Whitely, Dougherty, & Dreher, 1991).
Although research concerning mentoring beneﬁts continues to accumulate, research
on factors related to willingness to mentor others and mentor variation in mentoring
behavior is sparse.
Given the considerable amount of time and commitment required on the part of
mentors, not all individuals are motivated or inclined to assume this role. Those who
do mentor others may have diﬀerent motives underlying their willingness to engage
in this activity (Allen, Poteet, & Burroughs, 1997; Kram, 1985). Individuals who take
on a mentorship role are generally thought to provide two broad categories of be-
havior or functions to their prot
ees that are referred to as career and psychosocial
(Kram, 1985). However, the extent that a mentor provides these functions can vary
considerably (Ragins & Cotton, 1999). Research examining variation in the provi-
sion of career and psychosocial mentoring has tended to focus on variables such
as race and gender. Relatively little is known about individual diﬀerences (outside
of demographic factors) that may help explain diﬀerences in mentoring behavior.
The purpose of the present study was to extend our understanding of the propen-
sity to mentor others and the provision of mentoring functions from the perspective
of the mentor. Building on social psychological and organizational behavior theories
of prosocial behavior, the present study had two main objectives. The ﬁrst was to
identify individual diﬀerence variables related to the propensity to mentor others.
Speciﬁcally, the relationship between prosocial personality characteristics (other-ori-
ented empathy and helpfulness) with experience as a mentor and with willingness to
mentor others was examined. The second objective was to examine the extent proso-
cial personality characteristics and personal motives for mentoring others explain
variation in the provision of career and psychosocial mentoring functions.
2. Theoretical background
Historically, the conceptual foundation for research on mentoring others has been
drawn from career and life stage theories (e.g., Kram, 1985). Career theory suggests
that mentoring others is an important developmental component of both life and ca-
reer stages (Greenhaus, Callanan, & Godshalk, 2000; Feldman, 1988; Kram, 1985).
Life stage theorists such as Erickson (1963), Levinson, Darrow, Klein, Levinson, and
McKee (1978), and Levinson (1986) view mentoring others as a process that occurs
during the midcareer years when individuals reassess their career and life accom-
plishments. Mentoring others during this time provides the midcareerist with a sense
of accomplishment and a means for obtaining generativity. Moreover, according to
Levinson et al. mentors are often career-plateaued and receive intrinsic satisfaction
from passing along wisdom to junior colleagues. Mentoring others also plays a
prominent role in career stage theories. For example, in Dalton, Thompson, and
PriceÕs (1977) four-stage model of professional career development, serving as a men-
tor is a key activity associated with the third stage. Taken together, these theories
suggest mentors seek mentoring relationships with others primarily to serve their
own developmental needs.
T.D. Allen / Journal of Vocational Behavior 62 (2003) 134–154 135
Prediction based on age and stage models of career development suggests willing-
ness to mentor others should be strongest for midcareer individuals. However, Ra-
gins and Cotton (1993) found no support for the hypothesis that willingness to
mentor others would be curvilinearly related to age. Additionally, Allen, Poteet,
Russell, and Dobbins (1997) found a negative relationship between age and inten-
tions to mentor others such that older supervisors reported fewer intentions than
did younger supervisors. Based on extant research, it seems that stage models (at
least as operationalized by age) do not oﬀer an adequate explanation of willingness
to mentor others. Moreover, career theorists have indicated that the traditional stage
models of development no longer describe most workers and in fact have limited pre-
dictive utility in todayÕs rapidly changing workplace (Arthur & Rousseau, 1996; Sul-
livan, Carden, & Martin, 1998). This suggests the need for additional theoretical
models that can explain variance in mentoring behavior.
Stage theories imply that mentoring behaviors are primarily hedonistic. However,
there may be multiple factors that explain mentoring behavior. For example, Batson
and Shaw (1991) argue for a motivational pluralism in explaining human behavior
that allows both self-beneﬁt and anotherÕs beneﬁt to serve as ultimate goals. Indeed,
one of the few studies to examine personality and the propensity to mentor others
found that altruism related to motivation to mentor others (Aryee, Chay, & Chew,
1996). However, the generalizability of the Aryee et al. results remain to be tested
since the sample consisted of primarily married males between the ages of 45–50 em-
ployed in Singapore. The present study extends the Aryee et al. study by examining
diﬀerences between experienced and nonexperienced mentors across a more demo-
graphically diverse sample.
At this point, it should be noted that the variables included in the present study
are not proposed to be the only correlates of mentoring behavior or superior to other
possible predictors. Nor is it my intent to suggest mentoring others is a purely altru-
istic process. Rather, I propose that an examination of other theoretical approaches
and constructs will extend and complement prior research. Ultimately, a more plu-
ralistic approach should result in a more comprehensive understanding of mentoring
others. The next section describes how the propensity to mentor others may relate to
prosocial dispositions. How career and psychosocial mentoring may also relate to
prosocial dispositions, as well as to personal motives for mentoring, follows.
3. Propensity to mentor others
Since informal mentoring is not typically mandated within organizations, serving
as a mentor is a volitional activity that goes above and beyond the mentorÕs formal
job requirements. Indeed, Scandura and Schriesheim (1994) describe mentoring as ‘‘a
personal, extraorganizational investment in the prot
ee by the mentor’’ (p. 1589).
Similarly, Mullen (1994) stated ‘‘By acting as a mentor, one is performing prosocial
behaviors’’ (p. 276). Consequently, it seems reasonable to view mentoring others as a
speciﬁc form of prosocial behavior. Prosocial behavior within organizations includes
behaviors performed by organizational members with the intention or expectation
136 T.D. Allen / Journal of Vocational Behavior 62 (2003) 134–154
that the behavior will beneﬁt the person, group, or organization toward which the
behavior is directed (Brief & Motowidlo, 1986). A considerable amount of work
in the organizational behavior literature has been devoted to investigating the ante-
cedents of prosocial behavior and related constructs such as organizational citizen-
ship behavior (OCB) (e.g., Borman, Penner, Allen, & Motowidlo, 2001; Organ &
Ryan, 1995; Podsakoﬀ, MacKenzie, Paine, & Bachrach, 2000). Moreover, social psy-
chologists have had a long-standing interest in understanding helping behavior and
volunteerism (Penner & Finkelstein, 1998; Penner, Midili, & Kegelmeyer, 1997; Sch-
roeder, Penner, Dovidio, & Piliavin, 1995). These literatures were used to provide
insight concerning variables related to mentoring behavior.
In the social psychology literature, the prosocial personality has been described as
a collection of traits that predispose a person toward helpful actions (Schroeder et
al., 1995). Research conducted by Penner, Craiger, Fritzsche, and Frieﬁeld (1995)
suggested there are two dimensions to the prosocial personality. The ﬁrst dimension
is other-oriented empathy. Individuals who score high in other oriented-empathy are
more likely to feel responsibility for and concern about the welfare of others. Social
psychological theory posits that decisions to help others result from empathetic con-
cern for others that is rooted in social identiﬁcation processes. Indeed, in their inter-
view study of experienced mentors, Allen et al. (1997) suggested mentoring others
might relate to other-oriented empathy in that mentors seemed to describe a form
of empathetic reaction in identifying with the early career challenges faced by junior
colleagues. In a meta-analysis, Eisenberg and Miller (1987) found an average corre-
lation of .17 between empathy and prosocial behavior outside of work. Empathy has
also been related to acts of citizenship within organizations directed toward individ-
uals. Speciﬁcally, McNeely and Meglino (1994) found a relationship between pro-
social individual behavior and empathy, but no relationship between prosocial
organizational behavior and empathy. Similarly, Settoon and Mossholder (2002)
found a relationship between empathy and interpersonal citizenship behavior where
interpersonal citizenship behavior was generally deﬁned as social behavior that has
the eﬀect of helping a co-worker in need.
The second dimension to the prosocial personality is helpfulness. Given that men-
toring others can be viewed as a speciﬁc form of helping behavior, it should relate to
altruistic tendencies. Studies concerning the helpful or altruistic personality suggest
that some individuals are consistently more generous, helpful, and kind than others
(Rushton, Chrisjohn, & Fekken, 1981). As noted earlier, previous research has
linked altruism with the motivation to mentor others (Aryee et al., 1996). Addition-
ally, several studies have found that that both empathy and helpfulness correlate
with self and peer ratings of OCB (Borman et al., 2001). Accordingly, it seems likely
that empathetic and helpful individuals will demonstrate a greater propensity to
Hypotheses 1: Individuals with experience as a mentor will be higher in other-
oriented empathy and helpfulness than will nonmentors.
Hypotheses 2: Other-oriented empathy and helpfulness will positively relate to
willingness to mentor others.
T.D. Allen / Journal of Vocational Behavior 62 (2003) 134–154 137
To support the utility of the prosocial dispositional approach to understanding
mentoring experience and willingness to mentor others in the future, it is important
to demonstrate that the dispositional variables studied contribute incremental vari-
ance beyond that contributed by variables associated with career and life stage the-
ories. Thus, the following was proposed:
Hypothesis 3: Other-oriented empathy and helpfulness will account for unique
variance associated with willingness to mentor others above beyond variance as-
sociated with career and life stage variables.
4. Mentoring provided
Prosocial dispositional tendencies may not only relate to the decision to become a
mentor, but may also relate to the amount of mentoring provided. Most of the re-
search examining correlates of mentoring provided has focused on demographic
variables such as mentor and prot
ee gender (see Ragins, 1999 for a review), mentor
ee race (Feldman, Folks, & Turnley, 1999; Thomas, 1990, 1993), prot
personality characteristics (Aryee, Lo, & Kang, 1999; Scandura & Ragins, 1993;
Turban & Dougherty, 1994) or on characteristics such as type of mentorship (i.e.,
formal versus informal) and relationship duration (Burke, McKeen, & McKenna,
1993; Fagenson-Eland, Marks, & Amendola, 1997; Noe, 1988; Ragins & Cotton,
1999). Research has yet to examine how mentor dispositional tendencies relate to
Providing eﬀective mentoring to others requires a considerable time investment on
the part of the mentor and can put the perceived competence of the mentor at risk if
ee performs poorly (Mullen, 1994; Ragins & Scandura, 1994, 1999). Indi-
viduals lacking prosocial tendencies may not be as willing to provide the time and
eﬀort necessary to deliver a great deal of mentoring or to assume the risks associated
with mentoring others. Support for this conjecture comes from the volunteerism and
helping literature. Speciﬁcally, in a study investigating volunteerism, a signiﬁcant re-
lationship between prosocial dispositions and length of service was reported (Penner
& Finkelstein, 1998). Additionally, Korsgaard, Meglino, and Lester (1997) found ev-
idence that individuals high in concern for others were less likely to base their actions
on rational calculations of expected costs or beneﬁts. Penner et al. (1995) also re-
ported that prosocial personality characteristics relate to how people estimate the
costs associated with helping others. Thus, it seems likely that prosocial individuals
may provide a greater degree of mentoring behaviors to their prot
it is proposed that prosocial dispositions will account for unique variance beyond
that associated with career and life stage variables, demographic characteristics,
and mentorship characteristics. Speciﬁcally, the following hypotheses are posed:
Hypothesis 4: Other-oriented empathy and helpfulness will relate to mentoring
Hypothesis 5: Other-oriented empathy and helpfulness will account for unique
variance associated with mentoring provided above and beyond variance associ-
138 T.D. Allen / Journal of Vocational Behavior 62 (2003) 134–154
ated with career and life stage variables, demographic variables, and mentorship
Personal motives for mentoring others may also relate to the provision of mentor-
ing functions. Motives are goal-directed forces within the individual (Batson & Shaw,
1991). Serving as a mentor to others can be viewed as one form of goal-directed be-
havior. To say that behavior is goal-directed is to say that it is motivated by a cogni-
tive representation of some outcome. People realize that patterns of behavior are
likely to produce certain outcomes (Cropanzano, James, & Citera, 1993). This ap-
proach to human behavior has been referred to as the functional approach. The func-
tional approach recognizes that the same behavior may have multiple motives
(Synder, 1993) and has been used to study volunteerism (Clary et al., 1998; Penner
& Finkelstein, 1998) and OCB (Rioux & Penner, 2001). This approach may also be
applicable to the study of mentoring in that individuals may mentor others because
such behavior satisﬁes certain needs or motives. Indeed, in her seminal research on
mentoring relationships Kram (1985) noted that interest in the development of others
‘‘is stimulated by both instrumental and psychological needs’’ (p. 89). In an eﬀort to
better understand the motives that underlie mentoring behavior, Allen et al. (1997)
asked experienced mentors to indicate why they chose to mentor others. Consistent
with Kram, the authors found that the reasons reported by mentors could be classi-
ﬁed into two factors they labeled as other-focused and self-focused. Other-focused
motives included the desire to help others, the desire to pass along information to
others, and the desire build a competent workforce, whereas self-focused motives
included the desire to increase personal learning and to feel gratiﬁcation.
The diﬀerent motives associated with mentoring others may explain unique vari-
ance in mentoring behavior. Moreover, it seems likely that the motives that underlie
an individualÕs reason for mentoring may relate to the type of mentoring provided
(Allen et al., 1997). For example, mentors motivated by factors such as a desire to
build a competent workforce may be more likely to engage in career-related mentor-
ing, whereas individuals who mentor others based on the self-satisfaction that men-
toring brings may be more likely to engage in psychosocial mentoring.
Hypothesis 6: Motives for mentoring others will account for unique variance as-
sociated with mentoring provided above and beyond variance associated with ca-
reer and life stage variables, demographic variables, mentorship characteristics,
and prosocial dispositions.
Hypothesis 7: Motives for mentoring others will diﬀerentially relate to career and
psychosocial mentoring functions provided.
Participants included 391 individuals employed in a variety of settings. Of those
responding to the demographic questions, the overall sample consisted of 221
T.D. Allen / Journal of Vocational Behavior 62 (2003) 134–154 139
females (57.3%), average age was 45.86 ðSD ¼11:10Þ, and the median level of edu-
cation obtained was a four-year college degree. Ninety-three percent ðN¼356Þof
the participants were Caucasian/white, .5% ðN¼2Þwere African-American/black,
and 6.3% ðN¼24Þwere from other minority groups. Average organizational tenure
was 10.29 years ðSD ¼9:29Þand average job tenure was 5.70 ðSD ¼5:64Þ. Of the 391
participants, 249 reported having served as a mentor. Demographics by sample
source are available upon request.
A total of 138 of the participants were members of a professional womenÕs business
association employed in accounting-related occupations. Most respondents were em-
ployed as accountants (e.g., staﬀ accountants, chief ﬁnancial oﬃcers, controllers,
etc.), but other job titles (e.g., bursar, bookkeeper) were also represented. A member-
ship mailing list was obtained from the association. Surveys were mailed directly to
the business address of 600 members from all regions of the United States and were
returned to the author via postage-paid business reply envelopes. Seven surveys were
returned by the post oﬃce as undeliverable, hence the response rate was 23%. Seven-
ty-one of these respondents reported experience as a mentor. The remaining 253 of
the participants were members of a professional association for individuals in engi-
neering positions. Participants held job titles such as ‘‘Senior Project Manager,’’
‘‘Mine Engineer,’’ and ‘‘Civil Engineer.’’ Surveys were mailed to the business address
of 2000 members from across all regions of the United States. Eight were returned by
the post oﬃce as undeliverable. A total of 259 surveys were returned for a response
rate of 13%. Of those 259, 253 contained relatively complete data. One hundred
and seventy-eight of these respondents reported experience as a mentor.
Experience as a mentor. Participants responded yes or no to the following ques-
tion: ‘‘During your career, has there been an individual who you have taken a per-
sonal interest in; who you have guided, sponsored, or otherwise had a positive and
signiﬁcant inﬂuence on their professional career development? In other words, have
you ever been a mentor?’’
Willingness to mentor. Willingness to mentor others was measured with four items
developed by Ragins and Scandura (1994) (e.g., ‘‘I would like to be a mentor.’’). In-
ternal consistency was .80. Responses were made on a ﬁve-point scale ranging from
(1, strongly disagree) to (5, strongly agree). Higher scores indicated a greater willing-
ness to mentor.
Prosocial personality. The Short-Form Prosocial Personality Battery (Penner,
2001) was used to measure other-oriented empathy and helpfulness. The short-form
has a total of 38 items compared to 56 items on the long-form (Penner et al., 1995).
Twenty-seven items measure other-oriented empathy (e.g., ‘‘I often have tender,
concerned feelings for people less fortunate than me.’’). Responses were made on
a ﬁve-point scale ranging from (1, strongly disagree) to (5, strongly agree). Internal
140 T.D. Allen / Journal of Vocational Behavior 62 (2003) 134–154
consistency as assessed by coeﬃcient alpha was .83. Seven items were used to
measure helpfulness (e.g., ‘‘I have, before being asked, voluntarily looked after a
neighborÕs pets or children without being paid for it.’’). Responses were made on
a ﬁve-point scale ranging from (1, never) to (5, very often). Four additional items
from the measure that assess personal distress (the tendency to experience disorien-
tation in tense interpersonal situations) were deemed irrelevant in the present
context. Internal consistency as assessed by coeﬃcient alpha was .70. Higher scores
reﬂected a greater degree of other-oriented empathy and helpfulness.
Mentor motives. Based on Allen et al. (1997) a pool of 19 items was developed to
assess motives for mentoring others. Only individuals who had experience mentoring
others responded to these questions. In situations where mentors may have had more
than one prot
ee, they were instructed to base responses on their current or most re-
cent mentoring relationship. Participants rated the extent each item motivated or in-
ﬂuenced their decision to become a mentor on a ﬁve-point scale ranging from (1, no
extent) to (5, great extent). Higher scores indicated the factor was a stronger moti-
vator. Factor analysis was performed to identify the constructs underlying the items.
Speciﬁcally, a principal axis factor analysis with oblimin rotation was conducted.
Three factors with eigenvalues greater than 1.0 emerged that represented 13 of the
19 items. The ﬁrst factor represented a motive related to mentor self-enhancement.
The second factor consisted of items related to the intrinsic satisfaction of the men-
tor. The third factor represented a motive to beneﬁt the organization and others in
the organization. Items with factor loadings of less than .30 and/or high cross-load-
ings were not used to interpret the factors or to form scale scores. This resulted in the
elimination of two additional items. The remaining 11 items were reanalyzed to as-
sess the stability of the three-factor solution. The results replicated the original anal-
ysis. These factor loadings are presented in Table 1. Self-enhancement was
comprised of four items ða¼:82Þ. Intrinsic satisfaction consisted of three items
ða¼:81Þ. Beneﬁt others consisted of four items ða¼:66Þ.
Mentoring functions. Individuals with experience as a mentor reported on the ex-
tent they provided mentoring with an adapted version of NoeÕs (1988) Mentor Func-
tions Scales. The adaptation consisted of rewording items from an academic to an
organizational context. This measure assesses career and psychosocial mentoring
functions as initially described by Kram (1985). Participants were asked to indicate
the extent that they engaged in mentoring behaviors using a ﬁve-point Likert-type
response scale, ranging from (1, no extent) to (5, great extent). Seven items assessed
career mentoring (e.g., ‘‘Gave your prot
ee assignments that increased written and
personal contact with senior management’’) ða¼:76Þ. Ten items assessed psychoso-
cial mentoring (e.g., ‘‘Conveyed empathy for the concerns and feelings that your
ee discussed with you’’) ða¼:84Þ. Higher scores indicated a greater degree of
5.4. Control variables
To help determine if the prosocial dispositional variables added unique variance
beyond variables previously linked to willingness to mentor, a number of controls
T.D. Allen / Journal of Vocational Behavior 62 (2003) 134–154 141
were included in the analyses. Although results of individual studies have been mixed
(e.g., Allen et al., 1997; Ragins & Cotton, 1993), research has found evidence of gen-
der diﬀerences in willingness to mentor others. Accordingly, gender was coded as a
dummy variable (male, 0; female, 1). Previous mentoring experience, both as a men-
tor and as a prot
ee has been linked with future willingness to mentor others (Allen
et al., 1997; Ragins & Cotton, 1993; Ragins & Scandura, 1999) so both types of ex-
perience were included as controls when predicting willingness to mentor. Three vari-
ables were used to represent life and career stages. Age was reported in years. Job
tenure was reported in years and months. Four items adapted from Milliman
(1992) were used to measure perceptions of hierarchical plateauing (e.g., ‘‘I am un-
likely to obtain a much higher job title in [...] in the near future.’’). Internal consis-
tency for the measure was .78. In the equations predicting mentoring functions
provided, I controlled for factors shown in previous research to relate to career
and psychosocial mentoring. Speciﬁcally, prot
ee gender was dummy coded (male,
0; female, 1). Mentor race and prot
ee race were both dummy coded (nonminority,
0; minority, 1). Type of mentorship was dummy coded (informal, 0; formal, 1). Men-
torship duration was measured in years and months. Although experience as a men-
tor could not be included in the equations predicting career and psychosocial
mentoring because only those with experience could respond to these questions,
Factor loadings of motive to mentor items
Items Factor 1:
To enhance your visibility
within the organization
:90336 ).09549 .01796
To enhance your reputation
in the department
:72850 .02482 ).03174
To earn respect from others
in the organization
:67378 .04124 .16639
To increase your support base
within the organization
:57685 .07860 .00227
To beneﬁt your organization ).04774 :82829 ).06726
A desire to build/develop a competent
workforce within your organization
.07364 :68920 ).15513
A desire to help others succeed in
).09172 :47482 .28037
To ensure that knowledge and
information is passed on to others
.11506 :35357 .01298
The personal pride that mentoring
.02212 ).01651 :90313
The personal gratiﬁcation that
comes from seeing the prot
grow and develop
).00209 ).02439 :69780
To gain a sense of self-satisfaction
by passing on insights
.19302 ).01396 :69165
Eigenvalue 3.21 1.46 1.11
Variance (%) 29.2 13.3 10.1
142 T.D. Allen / Journal of Vocational Behavior 62 (2003) 134–154
previous experience as a prot
ee was included. Finally, since participants came
from two diﬀerent occupational groups, occupation was controlled (accounting, 0;
Table 2 presents intercorrelations, means, and standard deviations of the study
variables. Hypotheses 1 stated that other-oriented empathy and helpfulness would
relate to experience as a mentor. Since the dependent variable was dichotomous
(no mentor experience or mentor experience), logistic regression was used. Table 3
shows the results. For each predictor variable, the unstandardized regression coeﬃ-
cient and odds ratio are reported. The odds ratio for a predictor variable is com-
puted by exponentiating its regression coeﬃcient. In the present context, the odds
ratio represents the change in the odds of having served as a mentor for a one-unit
change in the predictor variable. If the odds ratio is signiﬁcant and greater than 1.0,
it indicates the odds of the outcome variable increase when the predictor increases. If
the odds ratio is signiﬁcant and less than 1.0, it indicates the odds of the outcome
variable decrease when the predictor increases. An odds ratio of 1.0 indicates the
two variables are statistically independent. Model v2assesses the overall logistic
model and is comparable to the overall Ftest for regression (Norusis, 1990). Sup-
porting Hypothesis 1, results indicated helpful individuals were more likely to have
served as a mentor to others (ExpðBÞ¼2:54, p<:001). In contrast, no signiﬁcant
relationship between other-oriented empathy and mentor experience was observed
Hypothesis 2 stated that willingness to mentor others would relate positively to
other-oriented empathy and helpfulness. Hypothesis 3 predicted that the disposi-
tional variables would contribute unique variance toward the prediction of willing-
ness to mentor. Hierarchical multiple regression was used to test the hypotheses.
Speciﬁcally, the controls (occupation, gender, mentor experience, prot
ence, age, job tenure, and hierarchical plateauing) were entered into the regression
equation at Step 1. Other-oriented empathy and helpfulness were entered at Step
2. Results are shown in Table 4. The results indicated that the two dispositional
variables added uniquely to the prediction of willingness to mentor beyond the
control variables (R2D¼:07, FD¼16:36, p<:001), thus supporting Hypothesis
3. Inspection of the individual beta weights provided support for Hypothesis 2.
Speciﬁcally, individuals higher in other-oriented empathy reported greater willing-
ness to mentor others (b¼:23, p<:001). Additionally, a marginally signiﬁcant re-
lationship between helpfulness and willingness to mentor others was observed
Hypotheses 4–7 concerned the extent that the dispositional variables and mentor
motives would explain variance associated with career and psychosocial mentoring
provided. Multiple regression was used to test the hypotheses. Speciﬁcally, the
controls (occupation, gender, age, job tenure, hierarchical plateauing, prot
gender, mentor race, prot
ee race, mentorship type, mentorship duration, and
T.D. Allen / Journal of Vocational Behavior 62 (2003) 134–154 143
Means, standard deviations, and intercorrelations among variables
1. Mentor experience –
– .18 –
– .25 .35 –
eentor gender ).22 ).23 ).19 .14–
6. Job tenure .06 ).06 .00 .05 .07 –
7. Plateau .01 ).27 .03 ).03 .14 .26 –
8. Age .24 ).11.04 .10 .08 .49 .41 –
ee gender – ).06 ).10 .17 .67 .08 .16.13 –
10. Mentor race ).01 .02 ).01 .14 ).03 ).05 ).09 .02 .00 –
ee race – .00 .02 .09 .09 ).04 ).02 ).03 .02 .25
12. Experience as
.26 .29 .03 .00 ).15 ).06 ).17).19 ).19 ).11
13. Occupation .19 .18 .17 ).21 ).86 ).12).24 ).24 ).69 .01
– .04 .04 ).05 ).12 ).07 ).09 ).02 ).12 .06
–).05 .15.03 ).04 .18 .17 .35 .01 ).04
.13.26 ).02 .38 .16 .06 .01 .10 .14.10
17. Helpfulness .28 .28 .18 .22 ).08 .05 ).10 .09 ).01 .05
– .06 .28 .04 ).03 ).04 ).05 ).06 ).02 .06
– .25 .17 .29 .08 .12 .00 .06 .08 .10
20. Beneﬁt others – .16.38 .17 ).22 .07 .04 .06 ).24 .09
Mean NA 4.13 3.13 3.76 NA 5.70 3.15 45.86 NA NA
SD NA .67 .72 .64 NA 5.64 .99 11.10 NA NA
11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20
3. Carer mentoring
6. Job tenure
10. Mentor race
ee race –
as a prot
144 T.D. Allen / Journal of Vocational Behavior 62 (2003) 134–154
ee experience) were entered at Step 1 of the equation. Other-oriented empathy
and helpfulness were entered at Step 2. The three motives for mentoring others (self-
enhancement, intrinsic satisfaction, and beneﬁt others) were entered at Step 3. This
Table 2 (continued)
11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20
13. Occupation ).05 .20 –
.00 .03 .12 –
.06 ).03 .00 ).20 –
.04 .00 ).16 .01 .02 –
17. Helpfulness .07 .04 .05 .04 .01 .34 –
).04 .05 .00 .13.01 ).11 ).02 –
).03 ).01 ).13).09 .01 .24 .13 .36 –
20. Beneﬁt others ).05 .14.17 .13.08 .12 .02 .22 .14–
Mean NA NA NA NA 3.18 3.73 3.12 2.03 3.47 3.94
SD NA NA NA NA 2.51 .35 .56 .88 .91 .70
NÕs range from 240 to 390.
Mentor gender and prot
ee gender: 0, male; 1, female. Race and prot
ee race: 1, nonminority; 2,
minority. Experience as a prot
ee: 0, no; 1, yes. Occupation: 0, accounting; 1, engineering. Initiation: 0,
informal; 1, formal. Duration: length of mentorship reported in years and months.
Logistic regression results for mentor experience
Predictor b Exp B
Gender ).42 .66
ee experience 1.31 3.76
Job tenure ).06 .94
Plateauing .04 1.04
Age .10 1.10
Occupation .87 2.39
% classiﬁcation accuracy 72.12
Logistic regression model v271.41
Other-oriented empathy .49 1.63
Helpfulness .93 2.54
% classiﬁcation accuracy 7.03
Logistic regression model v218.29
b and Exp B reported from the ﬁnal equation.
T.D. Allen / Journal of Vocational Behavior 62 (2003) 134–154 145
process was conducted for the dependent variable of career mentoring and then re-
peated for psychosocial mentoring. Results are shown in Table 5.
Hypothesis 4 received mixed support. Speciﬁcally, the results indicated that help-
fulness related to career mentoring (b¼:14, p<:05), but not to psychosocial men-
toring (b¼:05, n.s.). The opposite results were found for other-oriented empathy.
Other-oriented empathy related to psychosocial mentoring (b¼:28, p<:001), but
not to career mentoring (b¼:00, n.s.). Mixed support was also found for Hypothesis
5. As shown in Table 5, the prosocial dispositional variables failed to account for a
signiﬁcant increment in variance beyond the controls in the equation predicting ca-
reer mentoring (R2D¼:02, DF¼1:81, n.s.). On the other hand, the prosocial vari-
ables did account for a signiﬁcant increment in the variance explaining
psychosocial mentoring (R2D¼:11, DF¼12:40, p<:001).
Hypothesis 6 was supported. Motives for mentoring others accounted for unique
variance associated with career mentoring (R2D¼:15, DF¼11:75, p<:001) and in
variance associated with psychosocial mentoring (R2D¼:06, DF¼4:86, p<:01)
beyond the variance associated with career and life stage development variables,
demographic variables, mentorship characteristics, and prosocial dispositions (see
Inspection of the individual beta weights associated with the mentor motive
variables provided some support for Hypothesis 7. Speciﬁcally, the self-enhancement
motive signiﬁcantly related to career mentoring (b¼:19, p<:05), but not to psycho-
social mentoring (b¼:09, n.s.). By contrast, intrinsic satisfaction related to
Regression results for willingness to mentor
Job tenure .06
Experience as a mentor .25
Experience as a prot
Overall F 15.47
bs are standardized regression weights from the ﬁnal equation.
146 T.D. Allen / Journal of Vocational Behavior 62 (2003) 134–154
psychosocial mentoring (b¼:18, p<:05), but not to career mentoring (b¼:11,
n.s.). The beneﬁt others motive related to both career mentoring (b¼:30,
p<:001) and to psychosocial mentoring (b¼:19, p<:01).
Several key ﬁndings emerged from this study. First, the results provided support
for the contention that prosocial dispositions are associated with the propensity to
mentor others. Moreover, the results demonstrated that the dispositional variables
have incremental predictive value beyond variables associated with career and life
stage theories. However, it should also be noted that several of the career and life
stage variables related to the propensity to mentor others, particularly to willingness
Multiple regression results for career and psychosocial mentoring
Predictor Career mentoring Psychosocial mentoring
Mentor gender ).16 ).18
Job tenure ).13 ).06
Plateauing .09 ).07
Age .03 .06
ee gender .05 .08
Mentor race ).06 .11
ee race .09 .10
Mentorship type ).02 ).07
Mentorship duration .12 ).07
Experience as a prot
ee ).04 .03
Occupation .07 ).26
Empathy .00 .28
Intrinsic satisfacton .11 .18
Beneﬁt others .30 .19
R2total .27 .31
Overall F3.80 4.62
bs are standardized regression weights from the ﬁnal equation.
R2subtotals do not sum to total R2due to rounding.
T.D. Allen / Journal of Vocational Behavior 62 (2003) 134–154 147
to mentor others. This suggests that instrumental and prosocial approaches
should be considered complementary, rather than competing, processes related to
willingness to mentor others. Mentoring research and practice may beneﬁt by recog-
nizing the inﬂuence that both sets of variables have on the propensity to mentor
The results also demonstrated that diﬀerent variables relate to willingness to men-
tor others than relate to actual mentoring experience. For example, helpfulness re-
lated to actual experience as a mentor, but empathy did not. People who score
high on helpfulness are consistently inclined to engage in actions that beneﬁt others
(Penner et al., 1995). Thus, helpfulness may theoretically map more squarely with
becoming a mentor than does other-oriented empathy. Moreover, helpfulness may
be a better predictor of actual mentoring decisions because it is also linked to self-
conﬁdence and self-eﬃcacy (Penner et al., 1995). Less conﬁdent individuals may
be willing to mentor others, but hesitant to actually engage in the behavior. These
ﬁndings underscore the importance of comparing mentors and nonmentors for indi-
vidual diﬀerences, as well as investigating willingness to mentor to fully understand
the propensity for mentoring others. To my knowledge, this is the ﬁrst study to com-
pare mentors and nonmentors. Moreover, the results are not surprising given that
although research has shown that intentions are often the best predictor of future
behavior, the two are not perfectly correlated (Ajzen, 1991; Brett & Reilly, 1988;
Griﬀeth, Hom, & Gaertner, 2000; Sheppard, Hartwick, & Warshaw, 1988). Each
mentoring opportunity is likely to occur within a unique set of circumstances. For
example, an individual may be willing to mentor others, but when approached by
a junior colleague, he or she may be under extreme work pressures that prevent
him or her from taking on the role at that immediate time. An important endeavor
for future studies is longitudinal research investigating how well willingness to men-
tor others predicts actual mentoring decisions.
The results of the present study also reveal a more comprehensive landscape of
factors related to the provision of mentoring functions. The results indicate that pro-
social dispositions relate to mentoring functions; however, there are diﬀerential rela-
tionships between career and psychosocial mentoring. Speciﬁcally, only helpfulness
related to career mentoring while only other-oriented empathy related to psychoso-
cial mentoring. The diﬀerent patterns of relationships may be explained by several
factors. Helpfulness may more highly relate to career-related mentoring because it
reinforces feelings of eﬃcacy and competence. Providing prot
ees with sponsorship,
organizational exposure, and challenging assignments can demonstrate the mentorÕs
own skills and validate his or her clout within the organization (Kram, 1985). Penner
et al. (1995) found that scores on other-oriented empathy strongly relate to general
traits such as warmth and nurturance while helpfulness scores do not. Warmth and
nurturance has a closer conceptual tie with psychosocial mentoring. Indeed, Kram
(1985) noted that conveying empathy is a key aspect of the counseling function as-
sociated with psychosocial mentoring. Highly empathetic individuals may be better
able to foster the intimacy and trust that is central to the psychosocial dimension.
Counseling psychologists have been interested in the extent empathy can be trained
as a means to foster therapeutic relationships (Duan & Hill, 1996). A similar line of
148 T.D. Allen / Journal of Vocational Behavior 62 (2003) 134–154
research may be helpful in promoting psychosocial functions among mentors and
This study also linked motives for mentoring others with the provision of mentor-
ing. The results suggest that mentors motivated by diﬀerent factors may provide dif-
ferent mentoring functions. For example, the results indicated that mentors
reporting greater motivation to mentor for self-enhancement reasons were more
likely to report providing career mentoring. Meanwhile, mentors motivated by in-
trinsic satisfaction were more likely to report providing psychosocial mentoring.
One explanation for these results may be that mentors motivated by a desire to en-
hance their standing in the organization may see little value in providing the friend-
ship and counseling activities that comprise psychosocial mentoring as these
activities may not directly serve their own career goals. Mentoring relationships
based on career functions alone are primarily instrumental in nature (Kram,
1985). By sponsoring a prot
ee for a high visibility assignment, the mentor may en-
hance his or her own career proﬁle. On the other hand, mentors motivated by intrin-
sic satisfaction may acquire more satisfaction from the relational aspects of the
mentorship and thus be more likely to provide psychosocial mentoring. The results
also revealed that mentors motivated by the desire to beneﬁt others might be most
likely to provide both types of mentoring. This makes sense when considering that
the other-focused mentor desires to help the organization and the individual achieve
success. This may best be achieved by providing both types of mentoring. As noted
by Kram (1985), mentoring relationships that provide both types of functions are
more indispensable and critical to prot
The results have several implications. One is that prot
ees may need to try and
determine what motives underlie a prospective mentorÕs willingness to engage in a
mentoring relationship to ascertain whether the relationship will meet their needs.
For example, a prot
ee who has little need for the psychosocial aspects of mentoring
might ﬁt well with a mentor motivated to mentor for self-enhancement reasons. On
the other hand, a prot
ee desirous of greater emotional intimacy and relational
depth may be unhappy with such a mentor. This information could prove useful
to those charged with matching mentors and prot
ee in formal mentoring programs.
One direction for future research is an examination of how mentor motives for men-
toring others relate to other dynamics associated with the mentorship such as
ee career and learning outcomes.
Another implication of the results is that variables such a relationship duration
and demographic characteristics may have limited value when trying to explain men-
toring functions provided. With all the study variables accounted for, none of the
demographic or mentorship characteristic variables remained signiﬁcant. The pres-
ent research suggests that researchers should move beyond the focus on surface level
characteristics such as gender and consider deeper level characteristics that may bet-
ter explain variation in mentoring behavior.
The present study opens the door to several other avenues of research from the
focal point of the mentor. Ragins and Scandura (1994, 1999) have investigated
the relationship between perceived costs and beneﬁts with willingness to mentor
others. In future research, it would be interesting to examine the extent prosocial
T.D. Allen / Journal of Vocational Behavior 62 (2003) 134–154 149
dispositions relate to perceived costs and beneﬁts. For example, it may be that indi-
viduals high in prosocial tendencies would be less likely to perceive costs and more
likely to perceive beneﬁts associated with mentoring others. Moreover, additional
research examining how perceived costs and beneﬁts may mediate the relationship
between dispositions and the willingness to mentor others may increase our under-
standing of initial mentoring processes. Other recent research has investigated men-
tor information-seeking (Mullen & Noe, 1999). It seems likely that mentor motives
may relate to the extent a mentor seeks feedback and information from his or her
ee. That is, mentors primarily motivated for self-enhancement purposes may
be more likely to utilize the prot
ee as an information source.
Continued research concerning how mentor personality relates to various aspects
of the mentoring relationship seems warranted. For example, individual diﬀerence
variables such as Machiavelliasm might relate to self-focused motives for mentoring
others, particularly self-enhancement. This type of personality-motive combination
may be more likely to produce some of the negative or dysfunctional mentoring be-
haviors mentoring researchers have begun to investigate (Eby, McManus, Simon, &
Russell, 2000; Scandura, 1998). Additionally, organizational variables such as how
mentoring others is rewarded in the organization are likely to explain variance asso-
ciated with both a general willingness to mentor others and motives for doing so. Or-
ganizational variables may be particularly important to understanding the enactment
of the self-enhancement motive for mentoring. For example, Kram (1985) notes that
organizational reward systems can detract from a mentorÕs willingness to mentor oth-
ers. It may be that organizations that oﬀer no rewards inhibit the mentoring activities
of individuals primarily motivated for self-enhancement purposes. On the other hand,
mentors driven more by intrinsic satisfaction may not be concerned with whether or
not their mentoring eﬀorts are rewarded by the organization.
Understanding the dynamics related to the propensity to mentor others also
has practical implications. The information can be used to help organizations en-
courage developmental relationships. The functional approach to motivation ad-
vanced by social psychology research on volunteerism posits that understanding
the motives that are most important to an individual can help in attempting to
elicit the desired prosocial behavior by developing an appeal that matches the mo-
tive (Clary et al., 1998; Penner & Finkelstein, 1998). Since willing mentors are im-
portant to succession planning, information-sharing, and organizational learning,
it is imperative that organizations recognize the importance of motivating individ-
uals to assume mentoring roles. Appealing to both the altruistic and instrumental
motives of individuals may help organizations maintain a stable of ready and will-
7.1. Strengths and limitations
The present study has several strengths. Speciﬁcally, a comprehensive range of
theory driven predictors were included. This allowed me to ascertain that the proso-
cial personality and motive variables related to mentoring behavior after adjusting
for other theoretically linked variables. Additionally, this research moved beyond
150 T.D. Allen / Journal of Vocational Behavior 62 (2003) 134–154
examining willingness to mentor only, by also examining characteristics that distin-
guish mentors and nonmentors. Strengths aside, limitations to the study should be
noted. Cause and eﬀect inferences cannot be made regarding the relationship be-
tween the independent and dependent variables. Although proposing that the direc-
tion of the relationship is one where personality and motives precede mentoring
behavior is theoretically sound, the design precludes ﬁrm causality inferences. Addi-
tionally, since the data were based on self-reports, common method bias is a possible
inﬂuence on the results. However, common method variance is an unlikely explana-
tion for the diﬀerential pattern of relationships observed. Moreover, the objective
nature of the experience, no experience as a mentor variable renders it less vulnerable
to common method bias (Podsakoﬀ & Organ, 1986). Finally, this study was limited
to two occupational groups who were members of a professional association. The
extent that the ﬁndings generalize to other occupations and settings remains to be
Limited systematic research has been conducted examining the propensity to men-
tor others, and even less has focused on motives that underlie mentoring behavior.
Organizational restructuring during the past decade has resulted in fewer mid and
upper level management positions. Consequently, there are fewer individuals in se-
nior level positions who can take on the responsibility for mentoring others. Contin-
ued research designed to delineate the variables that inﬂuence and motivate
organizational members to assume the challenging task of mentoring others should
lead to a better overall understanding of mentoring relationships and help organiza-
tions develop more eﬀective strategies for their facilitation.
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