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An Exploratory Study of the Relative Effectiveness of Different Types of Sales Force Mentors

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This paper presents the findings of an exploratory study investigating the effects of mentoring in a sales setting. Salespeople who had manager mentors inside the organization where they work had high performance and a low intention to leave. Those with peer mentors inside the organization also had a low intention to leave but lower performance. Salespeople with mentors outside the organization where they work had high performance but also a high intention to leave. Finally, salespeople with no mentor had relatively low performance and a high intention to leave. These results suggest that manager mentors inside the organization produce the best combination of results. Study results also raise serious questions about the effects of peer mentoring and mentors outside the organization. The findings suggest two important hypotheses for testing: (1) that peer mentors produce low turnover intentions and high commitment in poor performers, and (2) that mentors outside the organization produce high turnover intentions and low commitment in high performers.
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AN
EXPLORATORY STUDY OF
THE RELATIVE
EFFECTIVENESS OF
DIFFERENT TYPES OF SALES
FORCE MENTORS
Thomas
G.
Brashear,
Danny
N.
Bellenger,
James
S.
Boles,
and Hiram C. Barksdale
Jr.
This
paper presents
the
findings
of an
exploratory
study
investigating
the effects of
mentoring
in
a sales
setting.
Salespeople
who had
manager
mentors
inside the
organization
where
they
work had
high
performance
and a low intention to leave.
Those
with
peer
mentors
inside the
organization
also had a
low intention to leave
but lower
performance. Salespeople
with mentors
outside
the
organization
where
they
work had
high
performance
but also a
high
intention to leave.
Finally,
salespeople
with no
mentor
had
relatively
low
performance
and a
high
intention to leave.
These results
suggest
that
manager
mentors
inside
the
organization
produce
the best combination
of
results.
Study
results also raise serious
questions
about the
effects
of
peer
mentoring
and
mentors
outside the
organization.
The
findings
suggest
two
important
hypotheses
for
testing:
(1)
that
peer
mentors
produce
low
turnover
intentions
and
high
commitment
in
poor
performers,
and
(2)
that
mentors
outside
the
organization
produce
high
turnover
intentions
and
low commitment
in
high
performers.
The
training
and
development
of
new
salespeople
requires
an
enormous
investment
of
time
and resources.
Billions of dol-
lars
are
spent
annually
on
training
and
developing
salespeople
(Training
2003).
This investment
includes
a combination
of
both
internally
and
externally
sourced
trainers.
Regardless
of
the
initial
formal
training
a
salesperson
re-
ceives,
he or
she
may require
additional
support,
direction,
and
guidance
-
particularly
during
the
early
stages
of
his
or
her
career.
This
assistance
can
provide
the
salesperson
with
information
concerning
the
organizations
internal
workings
and
behavioral
norms
that
may
not
be
explicitly
stated
dur-
ing
training.
One
approach
to
providing
this
supplemental
assistance
to
salespeople
and
other
employees
is
mentoring.
Mentoring
has come
to
play
an
important
role
in
todays
corporate
setting.
It
is used
as
a
career
training
and
develop-
ment
tool
(Hunt
and
Michael
1983),
as
an
integration
tool
for
new
hires
(Kram
and
Hall
1996),
and
as
a
means
of
so-
cialization
and
acclimation
for
salespeople
(Fine
and
Pullins
1998).
Thomas
G.
Brashear
(Ph.D.,
Georgia
State
University),
Associate
Professor
of
Marketing,
Eugene
M.
Isenberg
School
of
Manage-
ment,
University
of
Massachusetts,
brashear@mktg.umass.edu.
Danny
N.
Bellenger
(Ph.D.,
University
of
Alabama),
Professor
of
Marketing,
Robinson
College
of
Business,
Georgia
State
Univer-
sity,
mktdnb@langate.gsu.edu.
James
S.
Boles
(Ph.D.,
Louisiana
State
University),
Professor
of
Marketing,
Robinson
College
of
Business,
Georgia
State Univer-
sity, jboles@gsu.edu.
Hiram
C.
Barksdale
Jr.
(Ph.D.
University
of
North
Carolina),
As-
sociate
Professor
of
Marketing,
Robinson
College
of
Business,
Geor-
gia
State
University, mkthcb@langate.gsu.edu.
The effects
and the
nature of
mentoring
relationships
have
been
examined
in
a
variety
of
contexts
ranging
from social
services
(Kelly
2001)
and
academic
settings
(Tillman
2001)
to
employees
in
energy
and
high-tech
companies
(Raabe
and
Beehr
2003).
There
has been
a
limited amount
of research
that
has examined
mentoring
in a sales
environment
(e.g.,
Fine
and
Pullins
1998;
Pullins
and
Fine
2002;
Pullins,
Fine,
and
Warren
1996).
More
mentoring
research
is needed
on sales
jobs
due
to the
uniqueness
of the
role
played
by salespeople
(Bagozzi
1980).
The sales
job
has several
unique
characteris-
tics relative
to
many
other
types
of
jobs
(Dubinsky
et al.
1986).
These
include
the
physical,
social,
and
psychological
separa-
tion
from
other
line and
staff
personnel;
its
boundary
role
between
customers
and
the
organization;
the
salespersons
re-
quirement
of
persistence
and
self-motivation;
its demand
for
coping
with
uncertainty
and
interpersonal
conflict;
and the
delayed
results
of one
s
efforts,
which
contribute
to disillu-
sionment.
These
factors
suggest
that
the
technical
and
emo-
tional
support
that
mentoring
may
provide
could
be
even
more
critical
in
selling
environments
where
it
might
be difficult
for
inexperienced
salespeople
to
receive
support
if
they
are
sepa-
rated
geographically
from
potential
sponsors
or
colleagues
(Noe
1988).
One
important
consideration
relative
to
mentoring
rela-
tionships
and
mentoring
program
design
that
has
not been
explored
is the
relative
impact
of different
types
of mentors
(a
peer
inside
the
organization
versus
a
manager
inside
the
organization
versus
a
mentor
outside
the
organization).
This
study compares
salespeople
in four
categories
on the dimen-
sions
of
performance,
organizational
commitment,
and turn-
over
intentions.
The
four
groups
are
those
with no
mentors,
those
having
a
peer
mentor
inside the
firm,
those
with a
manager
mentor
inside the
firm,
and those
having
mentors
from outside
the
firm.
A
combination of
high
performance
Journal
of
Personal
Selling
& Sales
Management,
vol.
XXVI,
no.
1
(winter
2006),
pp.
7-18.
© 2006
PSE National Educational Foundation.
All
rights
reserved.
ISSN
0885-3134
/ 2006
$9.50
+
0.00.
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8
Journal
of
Personal
Selling
& Sales
Management
and
high organizational
commitment with
low
turnover
in-
tentions
is,
of
course,
the desired
result from
an
organiza-
tional
perspective.
MENTORING
Conceptualizing
and
Defining
Mentoring
Mentoring
is a
type
of
developmental
relationship
that
pro-
vides
support
for the
enhancement
of
an individuals
career
development
and
organizational
experience
(Thomas
1993).
A mentor can be defined
as an individual
who has advanced
experience
and
knowledge
and
is committed
to
providing
upward
mobility
and
support
to one
s career.
He or
she
may
or
may
not be
in
the
protégé
s
organization
and
may
or
may
not be an immediate
supervisor (Ragins
1989).
Mentoring
has been
conceptualized
in a
variety
of
ways.
Kanter
(1977)
portrays
a mentor
as
a
powerful
figure
who
aids
the
protégé
in
moving through
the
organizational
ranks.
According
to
Kanter,
mentors
"fight
for"
the
protégé,
assist
the
protégé
in
"by-passing
the
hierarchy,"
and
"reflect"
their
power
off the
protégé,
giving
the
protégé
indirect
power.
This
conceptualization
of
mentoring
is the
basis
for recommenda-
tions that
managers
mentor
minorities and
females
in mana-
gerial
positions
(Alleman
and
Gray
1986;
Phillips-Jones
1982;
Zey
1984).
An
alternative and
perhaps
more
encompassing
con-
ceptualization
is offered
by
Levinson et
al.
(1979).
They
view
mentoring
as an
important
relationship
in
adult
develop-
ment
-
especially
in
work
settings.
Bass and
Stogdill
(1990)
note
that
a
mentor not
only
pulls
protégés
up
the
organiza-
tional
ladder
but
also
develops
them
by
transmitting
elements
of the mentor s
knowledge,
experience,
and status.
Kanter
(1977)
describes
a mentor as a
sponsor
who
uses
power
to
promote
protégés.
To
Levinson
et
al.
(1979),
a men-
tor is a
multirole "adult"
figure.
Phillips-Jones
(1982)
describes
mentors as
influential
people
who
significantly
help
protégés
reach
major
life
goals.
This is
consistent both with Kanters
(1977)
use of the
power concept
and Levinson et al. s
(1979)
depiction
of a mentor
s
major
role as
supporting
and facili-
tating
a
protégé
to
help
him
or her
achieve success.
Carmine,
attempting
to
synthesize
both the role
and function of men-
tors,
provides
the
following
definition:
Mentoring
is a
complex,
interactive
process
occurring
between
individuals of
differing
levels
of
experience
and
expertise
that
incorporates
interpersonal
or
psychosocial
development,
ca-
reer
and/or
educational
development,
and socialization
func-
tions
into the
relationship.
(1988,
p.
10)
In
this
study,
mentoring
is
defined
as
a
career-oriented
re-
lationship
between a
more
senior
salesperson
or
manager
(mentor)
and a
junior
or
newly
hired
salesperson
(protégé),
initiated
for the
development
of the
protege's
understanding
of
his or her
roles,
the
social and
political
nature
of the
orga-
nization,
and
the advancement
of
the
protégé
s
career.
Types
of
Mentors
There
is some
debate
as
to
whether
supervisors
should
be
categorized
as
mentors.
Some
cite the
obvious
conflict
be-
tween
a
supervisor
s
expectations
of
immediate
results
and
his or
her role
of
nurturing
his or
her
employee.
It
has been
asserted
that a
protégé
may
be
more
guarded
in a
supervisor-
subordinate
mentoring
relationship
and
that the
environment
may
be less
likely
to be
open
and
"safe"
(Kram
1983).
In con-
trast,
Mullen
(1994)
contends
that
protégés
who
have
man-
agers
as mentors
feel
more
comfortable
communicating
with
them
than
their
counterparts
who
are
more
organizationally
distanced.
Certainly, employee
development
is
a
goal
for
most
managers
(McManus
and
Russell
1997).
After
all,
bosses
are
aware
of their
protégés'
developmental
needs
and
are
required
to
monitor
their
performance
(Ragins
and
McFarlin
1990).
Clearly,
the
roles
of
supervisor
and
mentor
may
overlap.
The leader-member
exchange
theory
(McManus
and
Russell
1997)
of
leadership
focuses
directly
on one-to-one
relation-
ships
between
supervisors
and
subordinates,
much
like
mentoring.
Both are
developmental
relationships
in the
work-
place.
However,
although
all
of the
salespeople
responding
in
the current
study
had a
supervisor,
only
one-third
considered
that
person
to be a
mentor.
A
primary
factor
in the
mentoring
relationship
is the
extent
to
which the
mentor
and
protégé
identify
with
each other
and the
extent
to
which the
mentor
sees
him
or
herself
in
the
protégé.
It
appears
that
the
majority
of
supervisor-subordinate
relationships
do
not
constitute
mentor-protégé
relationships.
Since
peers
share
information,
offer career
and
personal
advice and
encouragement,
and socialize
with
each
other,
it
should not be
surprising
to find
that
they
often fulfill
the
functions
of a
traditional
mentor.
"Peer
relationships
appear
to offer a valuable alternative
to the
[traditional]
mentor
rela-
tionship;
they
can
provide
some career and
psychosocial
func-
tions,
they
offer
the
opportunity
for
greater
mutuality
and
sense of
equality,
and
they
are more available
in
numbers"
(Kram
1983,
p.
623).
Peers
have
no formal
advantage
over the
potential protégés
in
the
workplace
and
are
likely
to
wield
only
informal social
influence.
They
can, however,
offer advice and
information
on how to
accomplish
goals,
point
out
potential
chances
for
advancement,
and
socially
reinforce
good
work behav-
ior.
Peers often have
one
significant advantage
-
they
have
frequent
contact with coworkers. This
fact,
combined
with
their
social
influence,
offers
the
potential
for
mentoring.
Peers
may
or
may
not be
directly
responsible
for
mentoring
junior employees,
and the rewards for such activities
may
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Winter
2006
9
be confined
to
their
personal
satisfaction;
thus,
the motiva-
tion of
peers
to act as mentors
may
be
limited. Peer
mentoring
has
generally
been found
empirically
to increase
organizational
commitment and lower intentions to leave
(Raabe
and Beehr
2003).
Much of
mentoring
literature,
from a sales
standpoint,
has
focused on
peer
mentoring
relationships
(e.g.,
Fine
and Pullins
1998;
Pullins, Fine,
and
Warren
1996).
It has been
described
as the
training
and
support provided
when a
relationship
de-
velops
between
a more
experienced salesperson
(the mentor)
and
a less
experienced
salesperson
(the
protege)
(Pullins,
Fine,
and
Warren
1996).
As noted
earlier,
peer mentoring
may
be
particularly
important
to
salespeople
because
of their
tendency
to
be
geographically
remote
(Dubinsky
et al.
1986).
Internal
mentors are
those
employed
in
the same
organiza-
tion as the
protege.
External
mentors are those
employed
outside
of the
protege
s
organization.
Internal mentors
may
be able to
provide
more
organizational
resources
to their
proteges
and are
generally
more accessible.
Also,
they
are be-
lieved
to be
in
a better
position
to
protect,
sponsor,
or offer
challenging
assignments
to their
protégé.
External
mentors
may
have
more
"interorganization
re-
sources"
and
may
be
in a better
position
to
provide long-term
career
guidance,
particularly
as it relates
to
mobility
across
organizations
(Ragins
1997).
The
Theoretical
Basis
of
Mentoring
The
intent
of the
current
research
is twofold.
First,
a test of
theory
will be
conducted
relative
to
the
presence
or absence
of
mentoring
as it
affects
selected
outcome
variables.
Two
theories
(social
exchange
theory
and
social
learning
theory)
link
mentoring
to
specific
outcomes.
It is
not
the
purpose
here
to
provide
an
extensive
review
of these
theories,
as
they
have
been
discussed
in detail
in
the
literature,
but,
rather,
to
test
the
linkages
that
they
suggest.
Second,
an
exploration
of
the
relative
impact
of
different
types
of
mentors
on selected
outcomes
is
conducted.
There
is
no
theory
available
that ad-
dresses
the
relative
impact
of
these
different
types
of mentors.
Rather,
the
literature
suggests
that
they
all
have
a
desirable
effect
on
outcomes.
No
empirical
study
to date
has addressed
the relative
influence
of
different
types
of mentors
in
the
same
work
setting.
Thus,
the second
part
of this
effort
is
explora-
tion
rather
than
theory
testing.
Social
exchange
theory
has been
considered
to be
one foun-
dation
for
understanding
and
framing
mentoring.
Social
ex-
change
theory
contends
"an individual
is attracted
to another
if he
expects
associating
with
him to
be
in
some
way
reward-
ing
for
himself,
and
his
interest
in
the
expected
social
rewards
draws
him to the
other"
(Blau
1985).
A
mentor
offers
three
types
of rewards
or
support
to
protégés:
social
support,
role
modeling
support,
and
vocational
support
(Scandura
1992).
These
types
of
support
are
theorized as
having
a
positive
ef-
fect on
selected work
outcomes.
Social
learning
theory
is
another
important
theoretical
framework that
has been
applied
to
mentoring.
Social
learn-
ing
theory
emphasizes
inactive
and
observational
learning.
Inactive
learning
involves
direct
interaction
with the
mentor.
Observational
learning
involves
learning
by
observing
or imi-
tating
the mentor.
Direct
interaction
and
observational learn-
ing
may
be used to
acquire
useful
behavior
patterns
and to
heighten
expectations
regarding
ones
ability
to
successfully
perform job-related
tasks
(Bandura
1977;
Noe
1988).
The
management
literature indicates
that there are
two dis-
tinct
types
of
personal
learning
(Lankau
and
Scandura
2002).
One
type
is "relational
job
learning,"
and the
second
type
is
"personal
skill
development
learning."
Relational
job
learning
involves increased
understanding
about the
interdependence
of one s
job
and that of others. Personal skill
development
learning
involves
acquiring
new skills and abilities
that enable
the individual to
form better
working
relationships.
Lankau
and Scandura
(2002)
hypothesized
that mentors facilitate
per-
sonal
learning
through
various
coaching
behaviors.
They
found
that
imitating
mentors
appeared
to
play
a
key
role
in
influ-
encing protégés'
learning
and that
personal
learning
may
ex-
plain
how
mentoring
influences work-related
outcomes.
BENEFITS OF
MENTORING
The
mentoring
literature
suggests
there are
activities
that,
when
performed
by
mentors,
should enhance
work outcomes of
protégés.
These
work outcomes
are
referred to as
mentoring
benefits
(Wilson
and
Elman
1990).
Zey
(1984)
describes
the
"mutual
benefits
model,"
with
mentors,
protégés,
and
orga-
nizations
all
receiving
benefits
from the
mentoring
process.
The
protégé
receives
increased
role
clarity,
protection,
pro-
motion
opportunities,
and
support. Organizational
benefits
are
derived
from
the
development
of
employee
talent,
which
yields
high
performance,
increased
organizational
commit-
ment,
and
lower levels
of turnover.
Work outcomes
exam-
ined
in
the current
study
affect
both the
organization
and
individuals.
They
include
increased
performance, organiza-
tional
commitment,
and a lower
intention
to leave.
Performance
The effect
of
mentoring
on
protégés'
performance
has received
considerable
attention.
Results
indicate
that
having
a mentor
increases
an individual's
ability
to
perform.
Research con-
ducted
in
a
variety
of
occupations/professions
demonstrates
significant
differences
between
performance
levels of mentored
and
nonmentored
employees
(e.g.,
Dreher and Ash
1990;
Feldman
and Thomas
1992;
Peluchette and
Jeanquart
2000;
Ragins
and Cotton
1999).
Through
a mentor's
teaching,
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1 0
Journal
of
Personal
Selling
&
Sales
Management
coaching,
and
role
modeling, protégés
develop competencies
and effectiveness
(Hunt
and Michael
1983).
Productivity
increases come
from a more
appropriate
use
of time and
resources,
and as
a
result
of
the mentor
s exten-
sive
coaching/ teaching.
According
to
Zey
(1984),
the best
example
of
productivity
increases
comes from
mentoring
re-
lationships
in
the
sales force.
The
mentor
"intervenes
to
de-
velop
the
protege's
ability
to sell a
product
or a
product
line"
(Zey
1984,
p.
104).
Mentoring's
effect on
salesperson
performance
occurs
as
the
protégé
acquires
skills,
motivation,
and
role
clarity.
The
mentoring
function
of
coaching/teaching
provides
a role
model for
necessary
skills
in the
sales,
interpersonal,
and tech-
nical
areas
and,
ultimately,
leads
to
high
performance.
Role
modeling
by
the
mentor allows
for vicarious
learning
by
the
protégé.
Roles
are more
clearly
understood
as
they
are
ob-
served
in
their
proper
context
and
not
simply
explained
in an
abstract
training
environment.
Organizational
Commitment
Organizational
commitment
plays
an
important
role
in
many
processes
related
to
employee
performance
and
organizational
success
(Mowday,
Porter,
and Steers
1982).
It has been
shown
to
be a
consequence
of
group-leader
relations,
role
states,
and
job
satisfaction
(e.g.,
MacKenzie,
Podsakoff,
and
Ahearne
1998;
Mathieu and
Zajac
1990).
Organizational
commitment
is also related to
employee
intention
to leave
and
turnover
(Johnston
et al.
1990).
Johnston
et al.
(1990)
found that
two
organizational
fac-
tors affect
organizational
commitment
in the
early
stages
of
sales
employment: leadership
role clarification
and
leadership
consideration. Both
leadership
behaviors had
a
direct,
posi-
tive
effect on
organizational
commitment.
The
study
also
found that
leadership
behaviors had an indirect
effect on or-
ganizational
commitment
(mediated
by
role
ambiguity,
role
conflict,
and
satisfaction).
Mentors have been found to
promote
organizational
com-
mitment and
the
performance
of
citizenship
behaviors
(McManus
and Russell
1997).
Mathieu and
Zajac
(1990)
found the five
strongest
antecedents of commitment to be
job
scope, perceived
personal competence,
job
challenge,
leader
communication,
and
participative
leadership.
Men-
tors
serving
as role
models
help
to
increase the
protege's
self-
efficacy
and the
formation of
realistic
expectations,
which
leads,
in
turn,
to
higher
levels of
personal competence.
Men-
tors
may
also
develop
their
protégés
by
presenting
them with
challenging
assignments
and
fulfilling
leadership
roles
(Kram
1983).
The
mentor-protégé relationship
is
important
to
the de-
velopment
of
a new
employee's
sense of
membership
and
understanding
of the
organization's products,
goals,
and
struc-
ture
(Zey
1984).
This
increased
understanding
and
the
protégés
successful
skill
training
result
in increased
effective-
ness
(Bates
1993).
This makes
the
organization
a more
ame-
nable
career
site and
may
lead
to
increased
commitment.
The
closeness
of the
mentor-protégé
relationship
can also
affect
commitment
to closer
relationships
with
others
in the
orga-
nization,
which can
increase
organizational
commitment
(Heimann
and
Pittenger
1996).
Intention
to
Leave
Salesperson
turnover
is another
important
issue
in sales
man-
agement
because
of the
high
cost
of
recruitment
and
training
and
the cost
of
lost
sales
due
to
unserved
demand
(Futrell
and
Parasuraman
1984;
Lucas
et
al.
1987).
Intention
to
leave
is
important
because
it
is
directly
linked
to turnover
(Lee
and
Mowday
1987).
Johnston
et
al.
(1990)
extended
the
turnover
literature
by
explicitly
examining
the
effects
of
role
clarity
and
leader
con-
sideration
on
salesperson
turnover.
Sager,
Varadarajan,
and
Futrell
(1988)
tested
the
indirect
effect
of
salesperson
satis-
faction
on
turnover,
with
satisfaction
first
affecting
thoughts
of
quitting
and,
subsequently,
attitudes
toward
job
search
and
quitting.
They
report
that
job
satisfaction
directly
and
indi-
rectly
affects
various
stages
of
the turnover
process.
McNeilly
and
Russ
(1992)
also
found
that
organizational
commit-
ment was
negatively
related
to
propensity
to
leave.
Mentoring
may
indirectly
affect
turnover
through
job
satisfaction,
or-
ganizational
commitment,
and
performance.
The
linkages
between
mentoring
and the
principal
antecedents
of turn-
over
suggest
that
mentoring
can
indirectly
reduce
turnover
intentions
and
turnover
behavior
(Morris
1995;
Ragins
and
Cotton
1999).
The work
of Chandrasekaran
et
al.
(2000)
supports
this indirect
linkage
by demonstrating
the relation-
ships
of affective
and continuance
commitment
as well
as
role
ambiguity
and
role conflict
on
intentions
to
leave the
organization.
Mentored
Versus Nonmentored
Salespeople
Since
there is limited academic
research
examining
the
effect
of
mentoring
in
a sales context
(Fine
and Pullins
1998;
Pullins,
Fine,
and Warren
1996),
the
hypotheses
are
comparative
in
nature.
Previous literature
provides
a
theoretical
foundation
and
empirical support
pertaining
to the effect
of mentors on
salesperson
work
outcomes,
including
performance, organi-
zational
commitment,
and intention to leave.
Based on that
review,
the
following
hypotheses
were
developed
to determine
if
support
for them can be
replicated
in this context:
HI:
Mentored
salespeople
will exhibit
higher
mean
levels
of
sales
performance.
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Winter
2006
11
H2: Mentored
salespeople
will have
higher
mean levels
of
(a)
affective
commitment and
(b)
continuance
commitment.
H3:
Mentored
salespeople
will
have lower levels
of
inten-
tion to leave the
organization.
Note
that
no
hypotheses
are
proposed
for the different
types
of mentors.
This
is
due
to a
lack of direction from
theory
or
past empirical
results
indicating
that
one
type
should be ex-
pected
to
produce superior
results. The
beginning
proposi-
tion is
that
all
types
of mentors
should
produce
results
superior
to those of nonmentored
salespeople.
This is the
exploratory
aspect
of the research.
METHODOLOGY
Data Collection
The data
come from the
Life Insurance
Marketing
Research
Association
(LIMRA),
which controlled
when each construct
was measured.
The
sampling
frame included
newly
hired,
full-
time
insurance
salespeople
from
60
U.S.
and Canadian
life
insurance
companies
that
were tracked
over a
multiyear
pe-
riod. The data
used
here were
collected
in
three waves
using
a
mail
survey.
The first data
collection
was
initiated
within the
first three
months
of a sales
agents
employment.
The second
and
third data
collections
came at
one
year
and three
years,
respectively.
The
initial
sampling
frame
included
approximately
19,000
beginning
sales
representatives
from the
60
insurance
com-
panies
represented.
This new-hire
mailing
resulted
in
5,073
usable
questionnaires,
for a
response
rate of
27
percent.
For
the
subsequent mailings,
sales
agents
who
responded
to the
previous
survey
were
included
in
the
mailing.
The
response
rate for
the
one-year
survey
was
67
percent
and
for the
three-
year
survey
was
66
percent.
The
presence
or absence
of
a
mentor
was assessed
in
the
new-hire
survey.
Performance
was
assessed
in the
one-year
survey,
and commitment
and
inten-
tion
to leave
in the
three-year
survey.
Measures
All multi-item
scales
were
subjected
to
both
exploratory
and
confirmatory
factor
analysis
to
purify
the
scales,
along
with
tests
of
internal
consistency
using
Cronbach's
alpha
(see
Table
1).
Scale
items
used
in
the
study
are
included
in the
Appendix.
Unless
otherwise
noted,
responses
were
given
on a
five-point
Likert-type
response
scale.
Mentoring
Relationship
The
salespeople
were asked
in
the initial
survey
(conducted
during
the
first three months of
employment)
if
they
had a
Table
I
Internal
Consistency
of
Measures
Number
Cronbach's
Measure
of
Items
Alpha
Performance
I
-
Affective
Commitment
6
0.87
Continuance
Commitment
4
0.75
Turnover Intentions
5
0.88
mentoring relationship
(defined
as a
"career-oriented
relation-
ship
between
a more senior
salesperson,
a
manager,
or a
per-
son
outside the
organization
and
yourself
that was
initiated
to
help
you
develop
a better
understanding
of
your
roles,
the
social/political
nature of the work
environment,
and
advance
your
career").
If the
salespeople
had
a
mentor,
they
were
asked
to
indicate
if
that mentor was a
manager
inside the
firm,
an
agent
(peer)
inside the
firm,
or a
person
outside the
organiza-
tion. The
mentor-protégé relationships
involved
in
this
study
were informal
in
nature. Informal
mentoring
relationships
are
developed
between the individuals without that behavior
being
mandated
or
compensated
by
the
organization
(McManus
and Russell
1997).
Research
suggests
that informal
mentoring
relationships
tend to
produce
higher
levels of
satisfaction,
greater
support,
and increased benefits
relative to formal
mentoring
relation-
ships
(Chao,
Walz,
and Gardner
1992;
Fagenson-Eland,
Marks,
and
Amendola
1997;
Ragins
and Cotton
1999;
Ragins,
Cotton,
and
Miller
2000).
It could be asserted
that these rela-
tionships
were formed
by
mentors due to
an
expectation
that
the
salesperson
in
question
would
be a
high
performer,
com-
mitted
to the
organization.
The fact
that
the
relationships
were established
very early
in
the
salespersons'
tenure with
the
organization
makes
this
possibility
unlikely.
If
future
job
outcomes
were clear at that
point,
the
organization
likely
would
not have hired
the future low
performers.
Performance
Performance was measured
by
a
self-report
of
the number
of
policies
sold for the
previous
12-month
period.
The number
of
policies
sold
is an
industry
standard for
performance.
Per-
formance was measured
at the end
of
the
first year
of
^
employ-
ment
(one-year survey).
Self-reported performance
has been
shown to be reliable
in
previous
sales force research
(Churchill
et
al.
1985).
Commitment
Two
dimensions of commitment
were
included
in
the
study:
continuance and affective
commitment.
Affective
commitment
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1 2
Journal
of
Personal
Selling
&
Sales
Management
Table
2
ANOVA
for Performance
Group
Mean*
n
F-statistic
p-value
tj2
**
Nonmentored
19.04
729
5.23
0.00
0.03
Mentored
22.17
2,596
Individual
Analysis
Nonmentored
l9.04bd
729
6.67
0.00
0.01
Outside Mentored
25.40ac
308
Agent/Peer
Mentored
20.06bd
1,113
Manager
Mentored
23.39ac
1,127
Notes:
*
Differs from:
a
=
nonmentored;
b
=
outside
mentored;
c
=
agent/peer
mentored;
d
=
manager
mentored;
**
rj2
=
SSB/(SSB
+
SSW) (Carroll
and
Nordholm
1975).
is "a
strong
belief
in and
acceptance
of the
organizational
goals
and
values,
a
willingness
to exert
considerable
effort
on
behalf
of
the
organization
and a
strong
desire
to
maintain
member-
ship
in the
organization"
(Mowday,
Porter,
and
Steers
1982,
p.
27).
On
the other
hand,
continuance
commitment,
sometimes
termed
calculative
commitment,
is "the
outcome
of
an
individual
s decision
to remain
with an
organization
because
of the
personal
time
and resources
already
devoted
to
the com-
pany
and
because
of the
financial
costs
of
changing
jobs"
(Commeiras
and
Fournier
2001,
p.
239).
The items used
were
adapted
from measures
developed
by
McGee
and Ford
(1987).
The continuance commitment
measure
had four
items,
whereas
affective commitment
was assessed
with
six items.
As
operationalized
by
McGee
and
Ford,
affective
commitment
is
an
affirmative
desire
to
stay
with the
organization,
whereas
continuance commitment
indicates a
lack of
good
options
for
other
employment.
Continuance
commitment
might
be ex-
pected
from low
performers
with
fewer
options.
Commitment
was assessed
on the
three-year
survey.
Both dimensions
of com-
mitment
were included
to examine the
possible
differential
impact
of
mentoring
on the
two
types.
Intention to
Leave
Intention to leave is an
expressed
desire
to
find
employment
in
another
firm
within
a
specified period
of time. It was mea-
sured
by
a multi-item
measure included
in
the
three-year
sur-
vey
(Mowday,
Koberg,
and McArthur
1984).
Description
of
Sample
The
initial
survey
of the
newly
hired
salespersons (potential
proteges)
included both
individuals who
obtained mentors
and
those that
did not
and
contained
a
variety
of
demographic
information.
The
average
newly
hired
salesperson
was
35
years
old.
Respondent
ages ranged
from
19
to
49.
Forty-nine
per-
cent
had a
bachelors
degree
or
graduate
education.
Eighty
percent
of
the
new
salespeople
had
been
employed
previously,
with
23
percent
coming
from
other
insurance
sales
positions,
22
percent
from
managerial
positions
outside
of
insurance,
and
18
percent
from
insurance
managerial
positions.
Ninety
percent
were
white,
71
percent
were
married,
and
68
percent
had one
or
more
children.
Data
Analysis
Analysis
of variance
(ANOVA)
was used
to
test
the
hypoth-
eses.
A number
of
covariates,
such
as
age
and
past
sales
expe-
rience,
were
examined
and
found
to
have
no
significant
impact.
COMPARING
SALESPEOPLE
WITH
VARIOUS
TYPES OF
MENTORS
AND NO
MENTOR
HI, H2,
and
H3
compared
salespeople
with
various
types
of
mentors and
no mentor
on their
levels
of
performance,
orga-
nizational
commitment,
and
propensity
to leave.
A
summary
of results
appears
in Tables
2
through
5.
HI
predicts
higher
levels
of
performance
for
mentored
versus nonmentored
sales-
people.
The
results shown
in Table
2
support
this
hypothesis.
Further
analysis
was
performed
to
explore
comparisons
be-
tween
the individual
mentoring
types
(nonmentored,
outside
mentored,
agent/peer
mentored,
and
manager
mentored).
The
overall results
for the
ANOVA were
significant (p
<
0.01).
Sales-
people
with mentors have
higher
levels
of
performance (p
<
0.05).
Pairwise
analysis
using
Scheffe
tests indicates
that sales-
people
with
manager
mentors and
outside mentors
have
higher
levels of
performance
than nonmentored or
agent/peer-mentored
salespeople. Salespeople
with
agent/peer
mentors
were not sta-
tistically
different from nonmentored
salespeople
(p
>
0.05).
Two
dimensions of
organizational
commitment,
affective
and
continuance,
were tested
in
H2a and
H2b. Results
(see
Tables
3
and
4)
indicate
that
salespeople
with
mentors were
found
to have
higher
levels of both
forms of
commitment,
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Winter
2006
13
Table 3
ANOVA for Affective Commitment
Group
Mean*
n
F-statistic
p-value
rj1
Nonmentored
3.38
187 31.65 0.00
0.06
Mentored
3.79
315
Individual
Analysis
Nonmentored
3.38cd
187
19.11 0.00
0.1
1
Outside
Mentored
3.46cd
78
Agent/Peer
Mentored
3.84ab
98
Manager
Mentored
3.97ab
1
3
1
*
Differs
from: a
=
nonmentored;
b
=
outside
mentored;
c
=
agent/peer
mentored;
d
=
manager
mentored.
Table
4
ANOVA
for Continuance
Commitment
Group
Mean*
n
F-statistic
p-value
tj2
Nonmentored
3.05
189
4.97
0.02
0.01
Mentored
3.22
316
Individual
Analysis
Nonmentored
3.06d
189
2.62
0.02
0.02
Outside
Mentored
3.11
78
Agent/Peer
Mentored
3.25
97
Manager
Mentored
3.29a
1 33
*
Differs
from:
a
=
nonmentored;
b
=
outside
mentored;
c
=
agent/peer
mentored;
d
=
manager
mentored.
Table
5
ANOVA
for
Turnover
Intention
Group
Mean*
n
F-statistic
p-value
rf
Nonmentored
1.96
235
3.69
0.00
0.00
Mentored
1.82
389
Individual
Analysis
Nonmentored
l.96cd
235
4.09
0.00
0.02
Outside
Mentored
2.07cd
108
Agent/Peer
Mentored
l.79ab
120
Manager
Mentored
1 .73ab
235
*
Differs
from:
a
=
nonmentored;
b
=
outside
mentored;
c
=
agent/peer
mentored;
d
=
manager
mentored.
(/><
0.01)
and
(p
<
0.05),
respectively.
These
findings
sup-
port
H2a
and
H2b.
Salespeople
with
agent/peer
mentors
or
manager
mentors
have
higher
mean
levels
of affective
commitment
than
both
nonmentored
and
outside-mentored
salespeople.
For
continu-
ance
commitment,
those
salespeople
with
manager
mentors
are
significantly
higher
than
nonmentored
salespeople.
The
agent/peer-mentored
and
outside
mentored
groups
are
not
significantly
different
from
nonmentored
salespeople.
H3
predicts
that
mentored
salespeople
will
have lower
lev-
els
of
intention
to
leave.
ANOVA
results
support
the
hypoth-
esis
(/>
<
0.05).
Salespeople
without
a mentor
and
those
with
outside
mentors
have
the
highest
levels
of
intention
to leave
and
are
significantly
different
from
salespeople
with
manager
or
agent/peer
mentors
(see
Table
5).
Finally,
there
is no
sig-
nificant
difference
between
the outside-mentored
and
non-
mentored
salespeople
with
regard
to
propensity
to leave
the
organization.
Outside
mentors
are
not associated
with
a
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1 4
Journal
of
Personal
Selling
& Sales
Management
reduction
of
turnover
intentions,
whereas inside mentors
are
associated with
significantly
lower turnover
intentions.
The
results indicate
that
mentoring
affects
the levels of
salespeople's
work outcomes
as
hypothesized.
Specifically,
individuals
with
mentors
have
higher
levels
of
performance
and
organizational
commitment
and
lower
intention
to
leave.
From
an
exploratory
perspective,
internally
mentored
sales-
people
(those
with
manager
or
agent/peer
mentors)
have
a
significantly
lower
propensity
to leave
than
either
nonmen-
tored or
outside
mentored.
Salespeople
with
manager
men-
tors and
outside
mentors
have
significantly
higher
levels
of
performance
than
either
nonmentored
or
agent/peer
men-
tored. It
appears
that outside
mentors
relate
to
higher
perfor-
mance
but not
to
retention,
agent/peer
mentors
relate
to
higher
retention
but not
higher
performance,
and
manager
mentors
relate
to both
higher
performance
and
retention.
DISCUSSION
Mentoring
is
one
management
approach
that
can
address
the
expensive
and
critical
functions
of
training
and
developing
new
salespeople
in
both
sales
skills
and
organizational
social-
ization.
Mentoring
has been
examined
as
a
training
and
so-
cialization
tool with
previous
research
studying
various
aspects
of
peer mentoring
in a sales
setting (e.g.,
Fine and
Pullins
1998;
Pullins,
Fine,
and Warren
1996).
The
current
study,
however,
is the
first to
compare
the effectiveness
of various
types
of mentors
in a sales
setting.
Our
findings
indicate
that
manager
mentors
are the
most effective
type.
One basic research
question
addressed
by
the current
study
was to
determine
whether
or not
salespeople
with mentors
have work outcomes different
from
salespeople
with no men-
tor. Results indicate differences
between
mentored and
non-
mentored
salespeople.
With
respect
to
performance,
the
current
findings
are consistent with results
from research
in
nonsales contexts
(Chao,
Walz,
and Gardner
1992;
Scandura
1992;
Turban and
Dougherty
1994).
Previous research also
suggests
that
mentoring
affects an
employees
organizational
commitment
(e.g.,
Heimann and
Pittenger
1996;
Kram
1983).
The
current
study
extends the
literature
by
including
two dimensions of commitment
-
af-
fective
and continuance. Both commitment dimensions were
found to be
greater
for
mentored
salespeople.
Examining
these
two
dimensions
contributes to a
greater
in-depth
understand-
ing
of
mentors'
effect on their
protégés'
commitment.
In
ad-
dition,
prior
to this
study,
no
empirical
research has been
conducted
linking
mentoring
directly
with intention to leave.
Mentored
salespeople
were
found
to have
lower turnover
in-
tention than
those with
no mentor.
A
second
issue
addressed
by
this
study
involves the effect
of
different
types
of
mentors on
protégé
outcomes.
Findings
indicate that
the
type
of
mentor matters. For
example,
protégés
with
manager
mentors
and
agent/peer
mentors
have
the low-
est
levels of
intention
to leave.
Salespeople
with
manager
mentors
and
outside
mentors
have
higher
performance
when
compared
to
salespeople
with
agent/peer
mentors
or
no
men-
tor.
Salespeople
with
manager
mentors
also
have
higher
levels
of affective
and
continuance
commitment
when
compared
to
nonmentored
salespeople.
These
findings
suggest
that,
whenever
possible,
manager
mentoring
should
be
utilized,
because
it
appears
to
be the
most effective
form
of
mentoring.
One
possible
explanation
for
the
superior
performance
of
protégés
of
manager
mentors
is enhanced
knowledge
man-
agement.
Knowledge
management
is aimed
at
improving
business
and
individual
performance
through
ongoing
learn-
ing
and
adaptation.
Manager
mentors
may
be
more
knowl-
edgeable
than
peers
in terms
of
the
behaviors
that
produce
better
outcomes.
They
may
also
be
in a
better
position
to
motivate
protégés
to
adopt
those
behavior
patterns.
Many
external
mentors
are
also
likely
to be
managers
in
other
or-
ganizations.
Thus,
they
may
have
a similar
effect
on
protégé
learning
and
adaptation.
The downside
to
these
external
men-
tors
is
their
possible
lack
of
loyalty
to
the
organization
em-
ploying
the
protégé.
This can
lead
to
lower
levels
of
commitment
to
the
organization
among
protégés
of exter-
nal
mentors.
This
study
demonstrates
that,
for the
industry being
ex-
amined,
mentoring
matters.
Further,
the
type
of
mentor
a
young
salesperson
has also
matters.
Our
findings
indicate
that
a
manager
in the
mentoring
role is
likely
to
produce
the
most
positive
results
for the
firm.
The downside
to
having
manag-
ers take
on the
mentoring
role is
that
they may
not
always
have
time to
provide
the
ideal
level
of contact
with
their
protégé.
However,
external
mentors
and
peer
mentors
also
have to do
their
own work
as
well as
provide guidance.
Thus,
the sales
manager,
whose
role
is to
"manage"
and
produce
results,
may,
in
fact,
have
as much
time
to
engage
in
mentoring
tasks as outside
or
peer
mentors.
THEORETICAL
CONTRIBUTIONS
From a
theory-testing
perspective,
this
study
provides
sup-
port
for the theories
of social
exchange
and
social
learning
that
link
mentoring
to
work-related
outcomes.
These
find-
ings
add
to a
large
body
of
empirical
work
that
supports
the
linkage
of
mentoring
with work
outcomes.
From a
theory-
testing
perspective,
it
suggests
that different
types
of mentors
have
differing
effects
on
performance, organizational
com-
mitment,
and
intention to leave.
One
possible
explanation
for these
differential
effects
is the
interplay
between
social
exchange
and
learning
as the
power
relationship
and
infor-
mation flow
vary
in
the
mentor-protégé
relationship.
A
manager
is
in
a more
powerful
position
in
a
relationship
with
a
protégé
than would
be the case
for a
peer.
The
peer
can
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Winter
2006
15
offer
suggestions
but
may
have less influence on behavior than
would a
manager.
Managers
may
also have a
broader base
of
information than
peers.
A
peer
can offer social
support
that
builds
a
sense
of
belonging
and
commitment,
but
may
not
have the
power
and
knowledge
to alter
selling
behaviors
in
a
desirable
way.
Outside
mentors,
who are often
managers
in
other
organizations,
may
have the same
type
of
knowledge
advantage
as internal
managers.
This
may
also
give
them a
great
deal
of
expert power
in
the
relationship
with a
protege.
On the other
hand,
outside
mentors have no
particular
loy-
alty
to
the
protégé
s
organization,
and,
because of
this,
they
may
not
foster the
type
of
organizational
commitment
that
an internal
manger
would instill.
MANAGERIAL
IMPLICATIONS
The
study
has a
variety
of
implications
for
sales force
man-
agement.
First,
mentors
affect
a
salespersons
work outcomes.
Developmentally,
mentors
can
provide
needed
information
to new
salespeople,
thereby enhancing
performance
and
com-
mitment
while
lessening
propensity
to leave.
In
mentoring
relationships, learning
occurs
during ongoing
work
experi-
ences
-
reducing
the
time
and costs
of
formalized
training
sessions.
Finally,
these
developmental
relationships
can
allow
salespeople
to
vicariously
learn successful
selling
scripts.
Managers
are
encouraged
to
look at
mentoring
as
a re-
source
for
improving
performance
and
lessening
turnover.
This
can
be
encouraged
without
a
formal
program
that
assigns
mentors
to
new
employees.
Having
either
an
inside
manager
mentor
or an
outside
mentor
was
related
to
increased
sales-
person
performance.
This
was
not the
case
for
salespeople
with
peer
mentors
or
no
mentor.
Salespeople
with
a
peer
mentor
or an
inside
manager
men-
tor
had a
lower
intention
to
leave.
Thus,
the
inside
manager
mentor
was related
to the
best
outcomes
for the
organization.
Given
the
tremendous
costs
involved
with
hiring
and
train-
ing,
the
retention
of
high-performing
salespeople
in
the
early
stages
of
employment
is
an
important
issue.
In
summary, having
mentors
helps,
and
the
type
of mentor
matters.
Although
all
types
of mentors
were
shown
to increase
some
work
outcomes,
manager
mentors
are
the most
likely
to
have
high-performing
protégés
with a
low
intention
to
leave
the
organization.
Managers
can
provide
more
information
and
guidance
to the
new
entrants
-
particularly
in a sales context.
Other
salespeople
who act
as
peer
mentors
may
have
to take
away
from
their
own
selling
activities
to
mentor.
While
the
information
and
guidance
they
provide
a new
salesperson
may
be
valuable,
they
do
not have
the
power
to
require
the
protégé
to
put
their
teaching
into
practice.
Further,
there
is some
evi-
dence that
helping
behavior
among
salespeople
in
an
insur-
ance
setting
may
hurt the unit
s
performance
(Podsakoff
and
MacKenzie
1994).
In
addition,
a
peer
mentors
knowledge
of
Figure
1
Results Relative
to
Mentor
Type
High
Inside
Outside
Manager
Mentor
Mentor
PERFORMANCE
Inside
No
Peer
Mentor
Low
Mentor
Low
High
INTENTION TO
INTENTION TO
LEAVE
LEAVE
and
and
High
Low
ORGANIZATIONAL
ORGANIZATIONAL
COMMITMENT
COMMITMENT
effective
sales
techniques
may
not be as
broad,
and
peers
may
have less
impact
on
the
protégé
s behavior
than a
manager
mentor.
By
encouraging
the transfer
of
mentoring
roles
to
managers, agents
can focus
on their own
productivity.
Outside
mentors
are also related
to
higher
levels of
perfor-
mance.
However,
they
did
not instill
organizational
commit-
ment
or lower
the
intention
of the
protégé
to leave the
firm.
In
this
sales force
context,
inside
manager
mentors
were more
effective
(see
Figure
1).
To
encourage
mentoring
by
managers,
the
firm needs to
ensure
the
span
of control
for each
manager
is such that
they
can
spend
the time
needed
with
their
protégés
soon after
their
entry
into the
sales force.
The
evaluation
and
compensation
system
also needs
to reward
effective
mentoring.
To
be suc-
cessful
long
term,
mentoring
needs
to become
a
part
of the
corporate
culture.
FUTURE
RESEARCH
AND
LIMITATIONS
This
study
is based
on data collection
conducted
over a three-
year
period.
While a
variety
of limitations
are associated
with
the
use of such
data
(Lucas
et
al.
1987;
Vermunt
1996),
that
discussion
is
beyond
the
scope
of this
paper.
Further,
time
periods
may
mask
intervening
factors
that
may
have affected
the variables
examined
in
the
study
-
which is the
case with
all data
collected
over
time.
This
research
also is confined
to
salespeople
in a
single
in-
dustry
-
insurance.
Lucas
et al.
(1987)
detailed
the differences
between
insurance
salespeople
and
other sales
positions.
Such
salespeople
may
be
very
autonomous,
and the
higher
perform-
ers
are
very likely
to be "self-starters." This could
impact
the
effects of
mentoring,
as could the fact that insurance is an
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1
6
Journal
of
Personal
Selling
& Sales
Management
intangible
product
that
may
require
different
selling
skills
com-
pared
to
tangible goods.
Hypotheses
flowing
from this
exploratory
effort relative
to the differential effects
of
different
types
of mentors
should
be tested
in
a
variety
of other
contexts.
Reward
orientations
and
self-efficacy may
also need
to be
included
in future
stud-
ies. Saks
(1995)
suggests
that
self-efficacy
can
have
a moder-
ating
affect when measured
at
the initiation
of a
job
and
a
mediating
one when measured
after
training
and
initial
ca-
reer
adjustments. Controlling
for
self-efficacy
that existed
prior
to
joining
the
firm
would
better
capture
the
true
affect of
any
mentoring
activities
on
subsequent
sales
force
work outcomes.
Future studies
should
also look
at other
mentoring
forms
(e.g.,
formal versus
informal)
and
explore
other
marketing
jobs
when
testing
the
influence
of
mentoring.
Likewise,
the
moderating
influence that
ethnicity may
have
on
mentoring
should
be
examined
in future research
(Thomas
1993).
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1
8
Journal
of
Personal
Selling
& Sales
Management
APPENDIX
Measure Items
Continuance Commitment
1.
I feel
I
have
too few
options
to consider
leaving
this
agency.
2. It would
be
very
hard
for
me to
leave
my
agency
right
now even
if I wanted to.
3.
Too much
in
my
life
would be
disrupted
if I
decided
to leave
my
agency
right
now.
4. It
would be
too
costly
for
me
to leave
my
agency
in
the near
future.
Affective Commitment
1.
I
feel
a
strong
sense
of
belonging
to
my
agency.
2.
I
feel
"emotionally
attached"
to
this
agency.
3.
This
agency
has
a
great
deal
of
personal
meaning
for
me.
4.
I
feel
like
"part
of the
family"
at this
agency.
5.
I
would
be
happy
to
spend
the
rest
of
my
career
with
this
agency.
6.
I
enjoy
discussing
my
agency
with
people
outside
it.
Turnover
Intention
1.
I will
probably
look
for a
job
in a different
company
in the
next
year.
2.
I would
turn
down
an
offer
from
another
company
if
it
came
tomorrow,
(reverse
scored)
3.
I
plan
to
stay
with this
company
for
quite
some
time,
(reverse
scored)
4.
I
am
not
sure
that
this
is
the
job
for
me.
5.
I
often
think
about
quitting.
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