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Relational Mentoring: A Positive Approach to Mentoring at Work

Authors:

Abstract

Like other relationships, the quality of mentoring relationships falls along a continuum ranging from high quality to dysfunctional. Although most mentoring research has focused on relationships that are average in quality, at its best, mentoring personifi es the very essence of positive relationships at work. Using a positive lens, this chapter offers an overview of the construct of relational mentoring. Relational mentoring represents the relational state of high-quality mentoring and is defi ned as an interdependent and generative developmental relationship that promotes mutual growth, learning, and development within the career context. The construct of relational mentoring is presented and contrasted with traditional approaches to mentoring. The antecedents, functions, processes, and characteristics of relational mentoring are examined. Mentoring schema theory, the self-structures of mentoring framework, and the relational cache cycle are applied to relational mentoring. A preliminary measure of relational functions is presented, along with an agenda for future research on mentoring relationships and mentoring episodes.
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1 CHAPTER
39 Relational Mentoring
A Positive Approach to Mentoring at Work
When asked to refl ect on relationships that have
made a diff erence in their lives, many people think
about their mentoring relationships. However, like
other work relationships, mentoring relationships
fall along a continuum of quality (Ragins & Verbos,
2007 ). Mentoring researchers have focused on
understanding the qualities, characteristics, and
outcomes of average relationships but have not
examined the high-quality end of the continuum.
At its best, mentoring has the capacity to be a life-
altering relationship that inspires and transforms
individuals, groups, and organizations (Ragins &
Kram, 2007 ). High-quality mentoring exemplifi es
positive relationships at work (Dutton & Ragins,
2007 ; Ragins & Verbos, 2007 ). By neglecting
the high end of the quality continuum, we unneces-
sarily restrict our understanding of high-quality
relationships, which in turn curtails our ability to
cultivate and sustain these critical work relation-
ships.
e fi eld of positive organizational scholarship
(POS) off ers an important lens for understanding
high-quality mentoring (Cameron, Dutton, &
Quinn, 2003 ). Using a positive lens, this chapter
off ers an overview of the construct of relational
mentoring. Relational mentoring represents the
relational state of high-quality mentoring and is
defi ned as an interdependent and generative devel-
opmental relationship that promotes mutual
growth, learning, and development within the
career context (Ragins, 2005 ). e antecedents,
functions, processes, and characteristics of relational
mentoring will be presented, along with an agenda
for future research.
Abstract
Like other relationships, the quality of mentoring relationships falls along a continuum ranging from
high quality to dysfunctional. Although most mentoring research has focused on relationships that are
average in quality, at its best, mentoring personifi es the very essence of positive relationships at work.
Using a positive lens, this chapter offers an overview of the construct of relational mentoring.
Relational mentoring represents the relational state of high-quality mentoring and is defi ned as an
interdependent and generative developmental relationship that promotes mutual growth, learning, and
development within the career context. The construct of relational mentoring is presented and
contrasted with traditional approaches to mentoring. The antecedents, functions, processes, and
characteristics of relational mentoring are examined. Mentoring schema theory, the self-structures of
mentoring framework, and the relational cache cycle are applied to relational mentoring. A preliminary
measure of relational functions is presented, along with an agenda for future research on mentoring
relationships and mentoring episodes.
Keywords : Mentoring relationships , positive relationships at work , relational mentoring , high-quality
mentoring , developmental relationship , mentoring schema theory , self-structures of mentoring ,
relational cache cycle , relational functions , mentoring episodes
Belle Rose Ragins
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In K. Cameron and G. Spreitzer (Eds.)(2012) The Oxford Handbook of Positive
Organizational Scholarship (pp: 519-536). New York: Oxford University Press.
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1 e chapter proceeds as follows. It fi rst begins
with an overview of mentoring relationships and
the distinction between relational and traditional
mentoring. Following this, the antecedents of rela-
tional mentoring are presented and integrated with
mentoring schema theory and the self-structures of
mentoring. I then examine the functions, processes,
and characteristics of relational mentoring. To pro-
mote research in this area, a preliminary measure of
relational mentoring is presented and an agenda for
future research is provided.
Mentoring and the Relational Perspective
In this section, I fi rst off er an overview of mentoring
and defi ne mentoring using a traditional perspec-
tive. I then describe some of the limitations of the
traditional approach and present the construct of
relational mentoring as an alternative frame for
viewing mentoring relationships at work.
What Is a Mentor?
Traditionally, mentoring is defi ned as a relationship
between an older, more experienced mentor and a
younger less experienced protégé for the purpose of
helping and developing the protégé’s career (Kram,
1985 ; Ragins, 1989 ). Mentors may or may not
be employed in the same organization as the protégé
or be in the protégé’s profession or chain of
command.
Mentoring relationships may develop informally
or may be assigned as part of a formal mentoring
program (Baugh & Fagenson-Eland, 2007 ). Formal
mentoring relationships are generally not as eff ec-
tive as informal relationships (Ragins & Cotton,
1999 ; Wanberg, Welsh, & Hezlett, 2003 ). However,
the quality of the relationship has been found to
matter more than whether the relationship is for-
mally assigned or informally developed (Ragins,
Cotton, & Miller, 2000 ); high-quality formal rela-
tionships can be more eff ective than low-quality
informal relationships.  ose with mentors, be they
formal or informal, generally have more positive
work and career attitudes than those lacking men-
tors (cf., Allen, Eby, Poteet, Lentz, & Lima 2004 ;
Underhill, 2006 ).
A key feature that defi nes mentoring and distin-
guishes it from other types of work relationships is
that mentoring is a relationship that is embedded
within the career context (Ragins & Kram, 2007 ).
Another distinction is that mentoring relationships
evolve through stages that eventually result in the
relationship either terminating or becoming rede-
ned as a peer relationship (Kram, 1983 , 1985 ).
Finally, it should be noted that mentoring rela-
tionships are part of a developmental network of
relationships that exist within and outside the work-
place (Higgins & Kram, 2001 ). At a given point in
time, individuals may have a constellation of devel-
opmental relationships that off er career guidance
and support. As discussed later, these relationships
change individuals, and these changes are carried
with the individual across life thresholds and the
other relationships in their developmental network.
As we will see, a key tenet of relational mentoring
theory is that the outcomes associated with rela-
tional mentoring have the capacity to transform
other relationships in the individual’s developmen-
tal network.
Mentoring Episodes
Like other relationships, mentoring relationships
can be viewed at the level of a single interaction,
which are called mentoring episodes (Fletcher &
Ragins, 2007 ). Mentoring episodes involve short-
term developmental interactions that occur at a spe-
cifi c point in time.
Although all mentoring relationships involve
mentoring episodes, individuals can engage in a men-
toring episode without necessarily being in a mentor-
ing relationship. Individuals may come to defi ne their
relationship as an informal mentoring relationship
after they reach a “tipping point” in the number,
length, and quality of mentoring episodes. For exam-
ple, a junior faculty member may seek advice about a
career-related dilemma from a more senior member
of her department. Both individuals may agree that
the senior faculty member engaged in mentoring
behaviors during the specifi c episode, but neither
may view it as a mentoring relationship at that point
in time. However, with repeated positive interactions,
they may begin to view their relationship as a men-
toring relationship.
Like mentoring relationships, mentoring epi-
sodes fall along a continuum of quality. High-
quality mentoring episodes are similar to
high-quality connections (Dutton & Heaphy, 2003 )
and growth-fostering interactions (Jordan, Kaplan,
Miller, Stiver, & Surrey, 1991 ; Miller, 1976 ). High-
quality connections are characterized by high emo-
tional carrying capacity (i.e., the capacity to
withstand both positive and negative emotions),
tensility (i.e., the capacity to withstand strain), and
high connectivity (i.e., the capacity to be open to
new ideas and defl ect behaviors that shut down gen-
erative processes) (Dutton & Heaphy, 2003 ).
Growth-fostering interactions are characterized by
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1mutual empathy, authenticity, and empowerment,
and lead to states of zest, empowered action,
increased sense of self-worth, new knowledge, and
the desire for more connection (Jordan et al., 1991 ;
Miller, 1976 ). e higher the quality of the mentor-
ing episode, the more likely individuals are to view
their relationship as a mentoring relationship. Low-
quality episodes are unlikely to lead to mentoring
relationships. Episodes that are mixed in quality
may lead to mentoring relationships, but as dis-
cussed next, these relationships are more likely to be
characterized as average in quality.
e Continuum of Quality
Relational mentoring theory holds that mentoring
relationships involve three relational states (dys-
functional, traditional, and relational) that refl ect
low, medium, and high ends of the quality contin-
uum (Ragins, 2005 ). Like other relationships, no
two mentoring relationships are the same or stay the
same over time. Mentoring relationships provide
diff erent functions based on the needs of their mem-
bers, which are continually evolving. Not only are
there diff erences between relationships in terms of
quality, but relationships also transform over time
to refl ect various states of quality (Ragins & Verbos,
2007 ). e continuum of mentoring quality there-
fore refl ects not only diff erences across relationships
but also within them.  e eld of mentoring has
generally focused on mentoring relationships that
refl ect the midpoint of the quality continuum.
ere has been a signifi cant amount of research
directed toward understanding dysfunctional men-
toring (e.g., Eby, 2007 ; Eby, Butts, Lockwood, &
Simon, 2004 ; Eby, Evans, Durley, & Ragins, 2008 ;
Scandura, 1998 ), but less is known about high-
quality relationships. One reason for this is that,
like other fi elds in organizational science, the fi eld
of mentoring focuses on phenomenon experienced
by the majority of workers (e.g., average phenome-
non). Although this captures the experiences of
more workers, it curtails our understanding of the
full range of mentoring experiences, and as dis-
cussed next, creates methodological problems and
issues in our research.
e Need for a Positive Organizational
Scholarship Perspective
e eld of POS (Cameron et al., 2003 ) illuminates
the problems with focusing on average phenome-
non: Not only do we lose sight of the extraordinary,
but the very description of our constructs suff ers
from conceptual and methodological inadequacy.
is problem is aptly illustrated in the fi eld of men-
toring. Traditional perspectives on mentoring
describe ordinary relationships of average quality,
but by focusing on average relationships, our very
defi nition and measurement of mentoring becomes
limited to these types of relationships. For example,
traditional perspectives on mentoring view it as a
hierarchical, one-way relationship in which the
mentor serves as a “godfather” in helping the pro-
tégé’s career and advancement. However, research
on high-quality relationships questions this view
and points to its limitations in understanding the
processes and outcomes associated with high-qual-
ity relationships (Dutton & Heaphy, 2003 ; Dutton
& Ragins, 2007 ; Fletcher & Ragins, 2007 ; Miller &
Stiver, 1997 ). Because our theory explains aver-
age relationships, our measurement soon follows,
and our empirical base of knowledge becomes
limited to explaining average relationships. High-
quality relationships fall off our conceptual and
empirical map.
A Relational Approach to Mentoring
Relational mentoring puts high-quality mentoring
back on the map. It does not reject traditional per-
spectives; these approaches explain average or mar-
ginally eff ective relationships, but do not explain
high-quality relationships (Ragins & Verbos, 2007 ).
By widening the conceptual lens of mentoring, rela-
tional mentoring allows us to assess the processes,
characteristics, and outcomes of high-quality men-
toring. Let us now turn to the four key principles
that defi ne relational mentoring and distinguish it
from traditional approaches (Ragins, 2005 ; Ragins
& Verbos, 2007 ).
     

First, relational mentoring challenges the view that
all mentoring is a one-sided relationship, and instead
points to the mutuality and reciprocity inherent in
growth-producing relationships (cf., Fletcher &
Ragins, 2007 ). Instead of viewing the mentor as a
prevailing source of power and infl uence, relational
mentoring recognizes that high-quality relation-
ships involve the capacity for mutual infl uence,
growth, and learning. Both members enter the rela-
tionship expecting to grow, learn, and be changed
by the relationship, and both feel a responsibility
and a desire to contribute to the growth and devel-
opment of their partner.
Although the overall level of expertise between
the mentor and protégé may be asymmetrical,
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1a relational perspective recognizes that expertise
shifts within a given mentoring episode, which
allows for mutual learning for both members
(Fletcher & Ragins, 2007 ). For example, a faculty
mentor may help a protégé with publishing an arti-
cle, but the protégé may off er expertise in new sta-
tistical analyses. Infl uence is shared, with the mentor
using “power with” rather than “power over” infl u-
ence strategies that characterize high-quality rela-
tionships (Follett, 1924 ; Miller, 1976 ). An example
of mutual growth can be found in diverse mentor-
ing relationships; diverse mentoring relationships
involve individuals who diff er in group member-
ships associated with power (e.g., race, ethnicity,
gender, sexual orientation, religion, disability)
(Ragins, 1997 ). ese relationships off er an ideal
platform for both mentors and protégés to learn
about diversity and to grow from the unique experi-
ences of those with diff erent backgrounds, cultures,
nationalities, and experiences.
    
 
Second, relational mentoring calls to question
exchange paradigms and the instrumental approach to
mentoring. An instrumental approach uses a trans-
actional frame and values the relationship for what
it can do rather than what it can be . Instrumental
approaches use a social exchange framework (Blau,
1964 , Homans, 1958 , 1974 ) that relies on exchange
norms in the relationship. With exchange norms,
partners give to each other with the expectation that
they will receive a “return on their investment.” For
example, mentors may expect allegiance in return
for the favors bestowed on their protégés. In turn,
protégés may be advised to use their mentors as a
career resource and to “trade them in” when a better
mentor comes along. In contrast, relational mentor-
ing is a close relationship that is governed by com-
munal norms (Clark & Mills, 1979 , 1993 ), in
which individuals give to their partners on the basis
of need rather than on the basis of expected
returns.
    
ird, relational mentoring expands the range of
dependent variables used to capture the eff ective-
ness of mentoring relationships. Current approaches
use traditional criteria of career success, such as
advancement and compensation, which fail to cap-
ture the outcomes associated with high-quality
relationships (Dutton & Heaphy, 2003 ; Miller &
Stiver, 1997 ). Relational mentoring draws on the
relationship and the POS literatures to identify a
broad range of dependent variables that refl ect per-
sonal growth and development, as well as the acqui-
sition of relational skills and competencies that may
be transportable across work roles and organiza-
tional boundaries (Fletcher, 1996 ; Kram & Ragins,
2007 ). A POS perspective off ers an array of poten-
tial outcomes that include positive psychological
capital (Luthans, Youssef, & Avolio, 2007 ), thriving
(Spreitzer, Sutcliff e, Dutton, Sonenshein, & Grant,
2005 ), ourishing (Diener & Biswas-Diener, 2008 ;
Keyes & Haidt, 2003 ), resilience (Luthans, 2002 ;
Luthans et al., 2007 ), and a host of other POS out-
comes identifi ed in this volume.
Expanding the criteria base allows for a more
accurate assessment of the eff ectiveness of mentor-
ing relationships. For example, a high-quality rela-
tionship may help its members develop a professional
identity or balance work and family, but may not
lead to a change in compensation or advancement.
Researchers who use compensation or advancement
as evidence of eff ective mentoring may conclude
that the relationship is ineff ective, when in fact the
relationship may be exceptionally eff ective in meet-
ing the unique needs of its members.
 
Finally, a relational perspective takes a holistic
approach that incorporates and acknowledges the
interaction between work and nonwork domains
(Ragins, 2008 ). Although traditional perspectives
view work relationships only in terms of work out-
comes, a holistic perspective recognizes that high-
quality relationships can infl uence the quality of life
within and outside the workplace (Ragins & Dutton,
2007 ). Relationships change people, and these
changes are not left at the workplace door.  e reach
of high-quality mentoring may extend beyond the
workplace and may infl uence the individual’s ability
to cope with challenges that spill over across his or
her life domains (Ragins, Lyness, & Winkel, 2010 ).
For example, high-quality mentoring may build
an individual’s self-effi cacy and her capacity for com-
passion (Boyatzis, 2007 ), as well as her emotional
intelligence (Cherniss, 2007 ), her capacity to cope
with stress (Kram & Hall, 1989 ), and her ability to
balance work and family demands (Greenhaus &
Singh, 2007 ). Although this chapter focuses on work
relationships, a developmental network perspective
holds that people have constellations of developmen-
tal and mentoring relationships that exist within and
outside the workplace (Higgins & Kram, 2001 ).
Using a holistic perspective, high-quality mentoring
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1relationships outside the workplace can build an indi-
vidual’s relational resources, which can be carried into
the workplace and infl uence her ability to develop
high-quality relationships at work.
In sum, in contrast to traditional, one-sided
approaches to mentoring that use exchange models
to predict a restricted range of instrumental out-
comes, a relational approach widens the lens of
mentoring to include high-quality, interdependent
relationships that use communal norms to facilitate
mutual growth, learning, and development within a
career context. Relational mentoring incorporates a
holistic perspective, and views mentoring as a posi-
tive work relationship that infl uences the quality of
life within and outside the workplace. Let us now
turn to a more in-depth review of the antecedents,
processes, and outcomes that may be found in high-
quality mentoring relationships.
Antecedents of Relational Mentoring
In this section, I review the individual, relational,
and organizational factors that may lead to high-
quality mentoring relationships. A number of indi-
vidual variables may predict people’s ability to
develop and sustain high-quality mentoring rela-
tionships (cf., Fletcher & Ragins, 2007 ; Ragins,
2005 , 2009 ; Ragins & Verbos, 2007 ). ese include
their self-structures of mentoring, their relational
skills and knowledge, and other individual diff er-
ences variables, such as personality, attachment
styles, and emotional intelligence.
e Self-structures of Mentoring
Self-structures of mentoring involve three compo-
nents: mentoring identities, mentoring schemas,
and mentoring as possible selves (Ragins, 2005 ,
2009 ; Ragins & Verbos, 2007 ).
 
Individuals vary with respect to the degree to
which they incorporate relationships into their
identity structures (Anderson & Chen, 2002 ;
Markus & Kitayama, 1991 ). Individuals who defi ne
themselves in terms of others are viewed as having
interdependent self-construals (Cross, Bacon, &
Morris, 2000 ) or relational identities (Brewer &
Gardner, 1996 ). Since relationships are central to
their sense of self, these individuals should place
greater importance on relationships than others
(Anderson & Chen, 2002 ).
Mentoring identities are a type of relational
identity that involves individuals defi ning them-
selves in terms of their mentoring relationships
(Ragins, 2009 ). Both mentors and protégés have
mentoring identities, and these identities may range
from positive to negative. Positive mentoring iden-
tities involve states of positive self-cognition (e.g.,
“Who am I? I am a good mentor.”).  e individual
not only defi nes him- or herself in terms of the
mentoring relationship, but this self-structure also
gives the individual positive cognitive and aff ective
associations. Individuals who have positive mentor-
ing identities are posited to be more motivated and
better able to develop high-quality mentoring rela-
tionships than are those who do not have a positive
mentoring identity (Ragins, 2009 ).
 
Mentoring schemas are the second self-structure
that infl uences relational mentoring. Mentoring
schemas are “fl uid cognitive maps derived from past
experiences and relationships that guide mentor’s
and protégé’s perceptions, expectations, and
behaviors in mentoring relationships.” (Ragins &
Verbos, 2007 , p. 101) Drawing on relational schema
(Baldwin, 1992 ; Planalp, 1985 , 1987 ) and social
cognition theory (Fiske, 1992 ; Markus, 1977 ;
Markus & Zajonc, 1985 ), mentoring schema theory
holds that individuals hold mental maps of mentor-
ing that shape their expectations, frame their experi-
ences, and motivate their behaviors in mentoring
relationships (Ragins & Verbos, 2007 ). Essentially,
mentoring schemas are knowledge structures of
what mentoring relationships “look like.” Mentoring
schemas involve expectations about what mentors
and protégés do in the relationship, what the rela-
tionship provides, and how it functions. As dis-
cussed later, relational mentoring involves a unique
set of functions that distinguish it from average or
dysfunctional relationships. Individuals who incor-
porate relational functions into their mental maps
of mentoring should be more likely to develop high-
quality mentoring relationships than are those who
do not incorporate relational functions (Ragins,
2005 ). An example of a mentoring schema that
would predict the development of a high-quality
relationships is “Good mentors learn from their
protégés and are able to grow in the relationship.
An example of a schema that would be less likely to
result in a high-quality relationship is “Protégés
should always listen to their mentors as the mentor
knows best.”
   
Possible selves refl ect the selves we wish to become,
as well as the selves we fear becoming (Markus &
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1Nurius, 1986 ). Mentoring as a possible self is defi ned
as “a future oriented representation of oneself in a
mentoring relationship” (Ragins, 2009 , p. 243).  e
possible selves of mentoring range from positive to
negative, refl ecting the best and worst visions of
oneself in a future mentoring relationship. Examples
of diff erent possible selves include: “I see myself as
an eff ective, wonderful mentor,” “I can’t picture
myself as a mentor,” and “I would be an awful
mentor.”  ose who hold positive self-visions should
be more motivated to enter and sustain a high-
quality mentoring relationship than are those who
lack visions or hold negative visions of themselves in
mentoring relationships (Ragins, 2005 ).
ese three self-structures infl uence one another
and are also aff ected by past and current experiences
in mentoring relationships (Ragins, 2005 ).  ose
who have had high-quality mentoring relationships in
the past, either as mentors or as protégés, may be more
likely to have positive self-structures that allow them
to develop and sustain high-quality relationships in
the future. In contrast, those who lack these experi-
ences may be less likely to incorporate mentoring into
their identity structures; mentoring becomes tangen-
tial to who they are and who they aspire to be.
Even the experience of witnessing high-quality
relationships can help individuals develop mentor-
ing self-structures that off er a foundation for high-
quality mentoring relationships. For example,
high-quality mentoring relationships can be a source
of role modeling for others in the organization, par-
ticularly if such relationships occur in high-ranking,
visible positions. To the extent that mentoring cul-
ture is driven from the top, the presence of high-
ranking relational mentoring may create mentoring
cultures that both value and model high-quality
relationships.
Although cognitive structures are important for
guiding and framing expectations, individuals also
need a certain skill set in order to develop high-
quality mentoring relationships.
Relational Skills, Caches, and Diff erences
 
Mentors and protégés should be more likely
to develop and sustain high-quality relationships
when they have the ability to engage in eff ective
communication, empathic listening, personal learn-
ing, and self-refl ection (Kram & Ragins, 2007 ).
Emotional intelligence, emotional competence, and
the ability to be compassionate may also help indi-
viduals develop high-quality mentoring relation-
ships (Boyatzis, 2007 ; Cherniss, 2007 ; Fletcher,
1998 ; Fletcher & Ragins, 2007 ). Boyatzis ( 2007 )
observes that, by exhibiting compassion, mentors
and protégés help each other engage in intentional
change behaviors that allow them to achieve their
dreams and aspirations.
Using Stone Center relational cultural theory
(RCT) (Jordan et al., 1991 ; Miller & Stiver, 1997 ),
Fletcher and Ragins ( 2007 ) identifi ed a set of indi-
vidual antecedents to relational mentoring.  ese
include the ability to be authentic, adaptive, empa-
thetic, interdependent, and vulnerable in the rela-
tionship (see also Fletcher, 1998 , 1999 ). Another
key antecedent is the ability to engage in fl uid exper-
tise; fl uid expertise allows individuals to move from
an expert to nonexpert role, to acknowledge help,
and to give credit to others without losing self-
esteem or needing to engage in “face-saving gam-
bits” (Fletcher, 1998 ). Mentors in particular need to
be able to put aside their hierarchical roles and
formal position in order to enter the relationship
from a place of mutual vulnerability, interdepen-
dence, and fl uid role relationships.  ey must have
the emotional stability and self-awareness necessary
to allow for mutual infl uence in the relationship;
infl uence that is based on needs and abilities, rather
than on hierarchically prescribed roles and tradi-
tional power relationships.
   
High-quality mentoring relationships are not only
built on relational skills, they may also generate the
relational skills needed to build other high-quality
relationships. We call this relational caches , which
are a transportable set of relational skills and com-
petencies that transfer across time, relationships,
and settings (Kram & Ragins, 2007 ).  is refl ects
the idea that individuals carry their skill set with
them across relationships.
Relational caches are likely to be developed in
high-quality relationships, and because people share
and build relational skills in growth-producing rela-
tionships (Miller & Stiver, 1997 ), they are also likely
to be passed between members of these relation-
ships. Moreover, since mentoring relationships exist
within a broader network of other relationships
(Higgins & Kram, 2001 ), members in high-quality
mentorships may pass their relational caches to
others in their social network.  is becomes an iter-
ative process in which mentors and protégés help
each other broaden and build their skill caches, and
in so doing develop relational caches that are passed
along to members of their other relationships both
within and outside the workplace.
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1 In essence, a holistic perspective recognizes that
individuals do not leave their relational skills at the
workplace door, but carry them into other relation-
ships nested within their homes, communities, and
professional networks. Similarly, relational skills
that are developed outside the work domain can be
carried back into the workplace and can infl uence
the quality of workplace mentoring.  is suggests
that the ability to develop high-quality relationships
outside the workplace should spill over and infl u-
ence relationships within the workplace and vice
versa. An iterative cycle of positive relation-
ships could therefore be developed that includes
relationships nested in the workplace, the home, the
community, and the profession.
 
A number of individual diff erence variables may
infl uence an individual’s ability to develop and sus-
tain high-quality relationships. Although there has
been a lack of research on personality characteristics
that predict high-quality mentoring, a recent review
of the literature on mentoring and personality
suggests that individuals who exhibit prosocial per-
sonalities, altruism, other-oriented empathy, and
openness to experience may be more likely to engage
in relational mentoring than are those who lack
these attributes (cf. Turban & Lee, 2007 ; Allen,
2003 ; Aryee, Chay, & Chew, 1996 ; Bozionelos,
2004 ).
Given the relational skill set identifi ed earlier, it
would be reasonable to expect that individuals who
had strong self-esteem, emotional stability, and
emotional intelligence would be more likely to seek
and develop high-quality mentoring relationships
than would those who lack these attributes.
Individuals with strong learning goal orientations
(Godshalk & Sosik, 2003 ) should be attracted to
the mutual learning processes inherent in high-
quality mentoring relationships. Finally, attachment
styles may infl uence the closeness of the mentoring
relationship (Noe, Greenberger, & Wang ( 2002 )
and the motivation to enter a mentoring relation-
ship (Wang, Noe, Wang, & Greenberger, 2009 ).
According to attachment theory (Bowlby, 1969 ),
individuals with secure attachment styles may be
better able to develop close relationships than would
those who either avoid close relationships or experi-
ence anxiety in the presence of intimacy.  ose with
secure attachment styles are also better able to
adhere to the communal norms that characterize
close relationships (Bartz & Lydon, 2008 ). It is
therefore reasonable to expect that individuals with
secure attachment styles should be better able and
more motivated to enter high-quality mentoring
relationships than would those with insecure attach-
ment styles.
Relationship Antecedents
At least four characteristics of the relationship
should aff ect its ability to achieve high-quality
states. First, relationships are likely to be of higher
quality when the mentor and protégé share similar
mentoring schemas (Ragins, 2005 ; Ragins &
Verbos, 2007 ). As discussed earlier, both mentors
and protégés have mentoring schemas that refl ect
expectations about their respective roles, as well as
the behaviors, purpose, and outcomes of the rela-
tionship. Schema congruency should not only infl u-
ence the satisfaction and quality of the relationship,
but also its eff ectiveness; members may be more
likely to work at cross-purposes when they do not
share a common frame of reference or set of expec-
tations about the relationship.
Second, mentoring relationships are likely to be
of higher quality when both members hold com-
munal norms. Communal norms involve members
giving to their partners without the expectation or
obligation of repayment (e.g., Clark & Mills, 1979 )
and represent a key process in relational mentoring
(Ragins, 2005 ). Existing research indicates that
commitment is a key predictor of quality of rela-
tionship (Allen & Eby, 2008 ), and communal
norms refl ect the deepest form of relational com-
mitment (Clark & Mills, 1979 , 1993 ); so, it is rea-
sonable to expect that relationships will be of higher
quality when both members hold communal rather
than exchange norms. However, a state of norm
incongruency, in which one member uses exchange
norms while the other relies on communal, should
lead to restricted levels of relational quality.
ird, the similarity of values, personality, and
learning orientations should aff ect the quality of the
mentoring relationship. Mentoring researchers have
found that perceived and actual similarity in learn-
ing goal orientations and other personality and
value attributes predict relationship satisfaction and
liking, which are often predictors of high-quality
relationships (Godshalk & Sosik, 2003 ; Lankau,
Riordan, &  omas, 2005 ; Wanberg, Kammeyer-
Mueller, & Marchese, 2006 ). Demographic dis-
similarity creates a challenge for many mentoring
relationships as individuals may not be aware of
“deep level” types of diversity (e.g., personality,
values, interests) that can be the basis for developing
a close mentoring relationship (Ragins, 1997 ).
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1However, related research indicates that, over time,
individuals fi nd deep-level similarities that form the
basis of eff ective work relationships (Harrison, Price,
& Bell, 1998 ). is suggests that members of diverse
mentoring relationships may need to make a more
concerted eff ort to discover similarities involving
personality, values, and interests, and that diverse
relationships may take more time to develop into
high-quality mentoring relationships than demo-
graphically homogeneous relationships (Clutterbuck
& Ragins, 2002 ; Ragins, 1997 ).
e fourth characteristic that may infl uence rela-
tional quality is the structure of the mentoring rela-
tionship. For example, whereas informal relationships
often develop on the basis of shared interests and
commonalities, formal mentoring relationships are
usually assigned by a third party and are therefore
less likely to have this advantage. In recognition of
this limitation, some formal programs involve men-
tors and protégés in the matching process, and exist-
ing research indicates that this procedure may yield
higher-quality relationships (Allen et al., 2006 ).
Even so, formal relationships are usually con-
tracted to last between 6 months and a year, which
restricts the time needed to reach a high-quality
state (Ragins, 2005 ). In contrast, informal mentor-
ing relationships usually span between 3 and 5 years,
which allows more time for members to establish
trust, reciprocity, and interdependence in the men-
toring relationship.
Electronic or virtual mentoring, which occurs
over the Internet, also faces unique challenges to
achieving high-quality states (cf. review by Ensher
& Murphy, 2007 ; see also Ensher, Heun, &
Blanchard, 2003 ; Hamilton & Scandura, 2003 ).
Because of the lack of face-to-face interaction and
nonverbal cues, electronic relationships are more
susceptible to miscommunication, and it is more
diffi cult and time-consuming to establish trust and
rapport in these relationships than in face-to-face
mentoring (Buche, 2008 ). Given these diff erences,
it may not be fair to compare formal and electronic
mentoring with informal mentoring. Perhaps a
better approach would be to examine the predictors
and the range of quality within a particular type of
mentoring relationship (e.g., what does high-quality
electronic mentoring look like, and what factors
predict the ability of individuals to attain these
relationships).
Organization Antecedents
Mentoring relationships do not exist in a vacuum
but are nested within the organizational context.
Some organizations promote a mentoring culture
that values shared knowledge, collaboration, and
learning (Eby, Lockwood, & Butts, 2006 ).  ese
cultures should be more likely to promote relational
mentoring than organizations that are characterized
by competitiveness, hierarchical relationships, and
traditional forms of power that restrict mutual
learning, reciprocity, and interdependence in work
relationships (Fletcher & Ragins, 2007 ).
In sum, characteristics of the individual, rela-
tionship, and organization may infl uence the ability
of individuals to develop high-quality mentoring
relationships. Let us now turn to a more in-depth
examination of the functions and processes of high-
quality mentoring relationships.
Functions and Processes in High-quality
mentoring Relationships
e Evolution of Mentoring Functions
Over 25 years ago, Kathy Kram ( 1985 , p. 22) defi ned
mentoring functions as “those aspects of a develop-
mental relationship that enhance both individuals’
growth and advancement” (italics added). Although
this defi nition took a dyadic perspective, the func-
tions described in her landmark book focused pri-
marily on what the mentor provides to the protégé.
Kram described two classifi cations of mentor func-
tions, career development and psychosocial, and
identifi ed discrete functions or behaviors within
each of these categories. Career development func-
tions help protégés advance in the organization and
include fi ve subcategories: sponsoring advancement,
providing job coaching, increasing positive exposure
and visibility in the organization, off ering protec-
tion, and giving challenging assignments. Mentors
also provide psychosocial functions, and the four sub-
categories here include role modeling, acceptance
and confi rmation, counseling, and friendship.
Building on Kram’s ( 1983 ) groundbreaking work,
instruments were soon developed that allowed
researchers to measure these functions from the men-
tor’s perspective (Noe, 1988 ; Ragins & McFarlin,
1990 ; Scandura & Ragins, 1993 ). Twenty years later,
we know that mentors do indeed provide these func-
tions and that these functions predict protégés’ career
outcomes and their satisfaction with the mentor and
the relationship (cf., Allen et al., 2004 ; Wanberg
et al., 2003 ). However, although high levels of these
functions represent greater levels of relational quality,
high-quality relationships may involve more than just
these functions.
Relational mentoring builds on this existing
work in two key ways. First, hearkening back to
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1Kram’s ( 1985 ) initial defi nition, relational mentor-
ing examines the functions and processes provided
by both members of the relationship. Second,
because relational mentoring seeks to explain pro-
cesses involved in high-quality relationships, the
range of functions in the relationship are extended
to include the qualities, behaviors, and characteris-
tics found in close interpersonal relationships
(Duck, 1994 ; Mashek & Aron, 2004 ), high-quality
connections (Dutton & Heaphy, 2003 ), growth-
fostering interactions (Jordan et al., 1991 ; Miller,
1976 ), and positive relationships at work (Dutton
& Ragins, 2007 ).
Relational mentoring off ers a third category of
mentoring functions: relational functions. Relational
functions do not substitute for career development or psy-
chosocial functions, but represent an additional category
that refl ects high-quality relationships . From the nega-
tive side of the spectrum, research has presented new
measures that capture the functions, behaviors, and
characteristics found in dysfunctional mentoring
relationships (Eby et al., 2004 , 2008 ). Mirroring this
work from a positive perspective, this section describes
relational functions, and a preliminary measure of
relational functions is provided in Table 39.1 .
Relational Functions
Relational functions represent a third category of
mentoring functions that refl ects the characteristics,
behaviors, and attributes that may be found in high-
quality mentoring relationships.  e list of such
characteristics can be extensive, but here I am only
identifying key functions that may be displayed by
both mentors and protégés in high-quality relation-
ships and episodes.  is list is not meant to be
exhaustive, but refl ects core attributes drawn from
related research and theory in the relationships,
social psychology, social cognition, and mentoring
literatures. Drawing on this work, relational
functions may include six subcategories: personal
learning and growth, inspiration, affi rmation of
selves, reliance on communal norms, shared infl u-
ence and mutual respect, and relational trust and
commitment.
   
Learning can be both a process and an outcome of
mentoring relationships (Kram & Ragins, 2007 ;
Lankau & Scandura, 2007 ). In terms of process,
high-quality mentorships diff er from traditional
relationships in the mutuality, type, and degree of
learning. Traditional approaches view the mentor as
the teacher or guide and the protégé as the learner.
In contrast, a relational approach recognizes that, in
high-quality mentoring, both members may learn
and grow from the relationship. High-quality rela-
tionships involve fl uid expertise, in which expertise
shifts depending on the mentoring episode or inter-
action (Fletcher & Ragins, 2007 ). For example, in a
given episode, a protégé may show the mentor how
to use the latest technology, or may off er insights
into generational diff erences among new entrants
into the workforce. Greater levels of mutual learn-
ing should occur in high-quality relationships
because learning is based on the individual’s task
expertise or knowledge, rather than on their hierar-
chical position or role in the relationship.
e type of learning should also diff er in high-
quality mentoring relationships. Although there are
many ways to defi ne learning in mentoring relation-
ships (cf., review by Lankau & Scandura, 2007 ),
high-quality relationships are more likely to pro-
duce personal learning (Carmeli, Brueller, &
Dutton, 2009 ; Kram & Cherniss, 2001 ), which
involves the individual’s insights into their values,
strengths, and weaknesses, as well as their develop-
mental needs, reactions, and patterns of behaviors
(Kram, 1996 ; Higgins & Kram, 2001 ). Learning
therefore can involve not only the sharing of infor-
mation and knowledge, but also the potential for
personal growth and development. By providing
personal learning functions, members help each
other learn more about themselves and others. For
example, in high-quality relationships both mentors
and protégés may provide their partner with feed-
back that illuminates the “blind spots” in their rela-
tionships with others, while giving them insights
into their personal strengths and weaknesses.

Inspiration is an evoked psychological state derived
from an episode with an object, event, or person
( rash & Elliot, 2003 , 2004 ). Inspiration involves
seeing diff erent and better possibilities, and can lead
to a positive motivational state that involves the
energization and direction of behavior ( rash &
Elliot, 2003 , 2004 ). Inspiration scholars distinguish
between being “inspired by” and being “inspired to
(e.g., one can admire a person or an object without
being moved to action) ( rash & Elliot, 2004 ). In
a relational context that involves mutuality and
reciprocity, there may be an additional process of
mutual inspiration (e.g., “inspired with.”).
Mentors and protégés have the capacity to inspire
each other in their mentoring episodes and relation-
ships. Traditional perspectives on mentoring hold
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Table 39.1 e Relational Mentoring Index
Instructions : e following questions ask about your experience in mentoring relationships. Mentoring is a
developmental relationship that pairs a more experienced and knowledgeable mentor with a less experienced protégé.
e relationship supports the protégé’s career, but also off ers important benefi ts for the mentor. Both members may
learn, grow, and develop from the mentoring relationship.
Some mentoring relationships develop spontaneously and informally, whereas others are part of a formal mentoring
program. In formal mentoring programs, mentors and protégés are matched and assigned in some way.
(Introductory Questions)
Do you currently have an ongoing mentoring relationship? (options: yes/no/unsure)
When did the relationship begin?
If you have more than one mentoring relationship, please answer the following questions in terms of your strongest
relationship.
What is your role in this relationship? (options: mentor, protégé)
Is this relationship formally assigned as part of a formal mentoring program? (options: yes it is a formally assigned
relationship/no it is not a formally assigned relationship/unsure)
Relational Mentoring Index
When thinking about this particular mentoring relationship, please indicate the degree to which you agree with the
following statements using the following scale: 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree).
(Relational Functions and Items)
(Function: Personal Learning and Growth)
1. My partner is helping me learn and grow as a person.
2. My partner helps me learn about my personal strengths and weaknesses.
3. My partner helps me learn more about myself.
(Function: Inspiration)
4. My partner has inspired or been a source of inspiration for me.
5. My partner gives me a fresh perspective that helps me think “outside the box.
6. I am often inspired by my partner.
(Function: Self-a rmation
a )
(Sub-function: Affi rmation of Ideal Self)
7. My partner is helping me become the person I aspire to be.
8. My partner sees me not only for who I am now, but also for who I aspire to be.
(Sub-function: Affi rmation of Best Self)
9. My partner always sees the best in me.
10. My partner seems to bring out the best in me.
(Sub-function: Affi rmation of Authentic Self)
11. My partner accepts me for who I am.
12. I can be myself with my partner.
(Function: Reliance on Communal Norms)
13. In our relationship, we help each other without expecting repayment.
14. We never keep score of who gives and who gets in our relationship.
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1that mentors may serve as role models for their
protégés. Role modeling approaches, but does not
fully capture the possibilities for inspiration in
high-quality mentoring relationships; members are
not only “inspired by” others (e.g., the mentor serv-
ing as a role model), but can also be “inspired to”
engage in new and creative behaviors and may also
engage in a reciprocal and synergistic process of
mutual inspiration (e.g., “inspired with”). Traditional
perspectives on role modeling ignore the possibil-
ity of mutual inspiration in which the mentor
both inspires and is inspired by his or her protégé.
Another distinction is that role modeling involves
emulation and admiration, whereas inspiration
can involve sparks of creativity that allow both
members of the relationship to think about things
in fresh and new ways ( rash, Maruskin, Cassidy,
Fryer, & Ryan, 2010 ). Mutual inspiration can
involve synergistic “thinking outside the box”
behaviors that can be benefi cial for both mentors
and protégés ( rash, Elliot, Maruskin, & Cassidy,
2010 ). High-quality relationships off er the psycho-
logical space in which inspiration can thrive (Dutton
& Heaphy, 2003 ), and it is reasonable to expect that
both mentors and protégés will report that their
partner inspires them, gives them a fresh perspec-
tive, and helps them think about work and life in
new ways.
  , ,
  
e self is not formed in a vacuum, but is crafted
through relationships with others (Cooley, 1902 ;
Mead, 1934 ). High-quality mentoring relation-
ships may help their members develop three aspects
of the self: their ideal selves (Markus & Nurius,
1986 ), their best selves (Roberts, Dutton, Spreitzer,
Heaphy, & Quinn, 2005 ), and their authentic selves
(Goff man, 1959 ; Harter, 2002 ).
Ideal selves represent the selves we wish to
become in the future; they refl ect our hopes, dreams,
and aspirations, as well the skills, abilities, achieve-
ments, and accomplishments that we wish to attain
(Higgins, 1987 ; Markus & Nurius, 1986 ). Research
from the close relationships literature indicates that
partners play a key role in helping each other reach
their ideal selves. Drawing on interdependence
theory (Kelley, 1983 ; Kelley &  ibaut, 1978 ;
Rusbult & Van Lange, 1996 ) and the ideal self lit-
erature (Higgins, 1987 ; Markus & Nurius, 1986 ),
Drigotas and his colleagues off er the idea of the
Michelangelo phenomenon (Drigotas, Rusbult,
Wieselquist, & Whitton, 1999 ). Using the meta-
phor of the sculptor who helps the true form emerge
from the stone, the Michelangelo phenomenon
describes the role that close partners play in affi rm-
ing one another’s pursuit of the ideal self and the
means by which the self is shaped by a close part-
ner’s perceptions and behaviors (Drigotas, 2002 ;
Drigotas et al., 1999 ).
e Michelangelo phenomenon has great utility
for explaining the processes involved in high-quality
mentoring.  is phenomenon holds that an indi-
vidual can help his partner reach his ideal self by
off ering affi rmations that confi rm the partner’s
beliefs about himself and by behaving in ways that
are congruent with his partner’s ideal self (Drigotas,
2002 ; Drigotas et al., 1999 ). Partner affi rmations
take the form of perceptual affi rmation, in which
partners view each other in terms of their ideal
selves, and behavioral affi rmations, in which indi-
viduals help their partners engage in behaviors that
Table 39.1 e Relational Mentoring Index (continued)
15. We give to each other without expecting repayment.
(Function: Shared In uence and Respect)
16. My partner and I respect and infl uence each other.
17. We respect each other, and we value what each person has to say.
18. ere is mutual respect and infl uence in our relationship.
(Function: Trust and Commitment)
19. Our relationship is founded on mutual trust and commitment.
20. My partner and I trust each other, and we are committed to the relationship.
21. Trust and commitment are central to our relationship.
a Affi rmation items may all load on same factor .
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1are aligned with their ideal selves by directly elicit-
ing or creating opportunities to engage in desired
behaviors, or by decreasing the opportunity to
engage in behaviors that confl ict with ideal selves.
Existing research has found support for this phe-
nomenon and has found that movement toward
ideal selves predicts positive outcomes refl ecting
relational and personal well-being (e.g., life satisfac-
tion, emotional well-being, self-esteem, vitality,
relational stability, relational satisfaction) (Drigotas,
2002 ; Drigotas et al., 1999 ; Kumashiro, Rusbult,
Finkenauer, & Stocker, 2007 ; Rusbult, Kumashiro,
Kubacka, & Finkel, 2009 ).
By providing affi rmation, high-quality mentoring
relationships may also help their members develop
their “refl ected best self.” Refl ected best selves are
defi ned as “an individual’s cognitive representation of
the qualities or characteristics an individual displays
when at his or her best” (Roberts et al., 2005 ,
p. 713). Refl ected best selves share some features of
the ideal self, but focus more on the qualities and
characteristics the person currently has rather than
on those they wish to possess (cf. Higgins, 1987 ).
According to Roberts and colleagues, mentoring
relationships are relational resources individuals can
use to develop portraits or mental representations of
who they are when they are at their personal best.
rough behavioral and perceptual affi rmation,
mentors and protégés may help each other expand
their collective constellation of possible selves and
provide the opportunity to bring their best selves
forward in their mentoring relationship.
In addition to best and ideal selves, high-quality
mentoring relationships may also affi rm the pre-
sentation of the authentic self.  e authentic self
represents one’s “true or real self” (Gergen, 1991 ;
Mitchell, 1992 ). Unlike ideal and best selves,
authentic selves include not only our best, but also
our worst traits, characteristics, and attributes.
High-quality relationships allow for the affi rmation
of the authentic self (Mitchell, 1992 ; see also
Roberts, 2007 ). Unlike other relationships in which
the authentic self is repressed, hidden, or distorted
(Goff man, 1959 ; Schlenker, 1980 ), high-quality
relationships off er the relational space, affi rmation,
and acceptance needed to close the space between
the presented and the actual self (Roberts, 2007 ;
Roberts, Cha, Hewlin, & Settles, 2009 ). Drawing
on self-verifi cation theory, such congruence may
lead to positive outcomes for the individual (Swann,
1983 , 1987 ) and their work relationships (Swann,
Polzer, Seyle, & Ko, 2004 ).
   
A key factor that distinguishes high-quality relation-
ships from other relationships is the reliance on
communal norms (Clark & Mills, 1979 , 1993 ). In
relationships governed by communal norms, the
focus is on the partner’s well-being, and benefi ts are
given in response to the partner’s needs without
expecting repayment (Clark & Mills, 1979 ). In
contrast, in exchange relationships benefi ts are given
with the expectation that a comparable benefi t will
be provided in return.  e individual receiving the
benefi t incurs an obligation or debt to return a com-
parable benefi t to his or her partner. Clark and Mills
point out that communal relationships vary in
strength (Clark & Mills, 1993 ; Mills, Clark, Ford,
& Johnson, 2004 ); in strong communal relation-
ships individuals feel a strong responsibility for
the welfare of their partner, whereas in weak com-
munal relationships, people take on less responsibil-
ity for their partner’s welfare.  ey observe that
norms vary across relationships, with communal
norms being more likely to be enacted in close rela-
tionships involving family members and friends,
whereas exchange norms prevail in relationships
between employers and their employees (Clark &
Jordan, 2002 ).
Like other relationships, mentoring relationships
may vary by the type and strength of relationship
norms. Since mentoring relationships can range
from close personal relationships to formally
assigned relationships that embody a contractual
relationship, it is reasonable to expect that high-
quality mentoring relationships are more likely to
rely on communal rather than exchange norms, and
that the stronger the communal norm, the higher
the quality of the relationship (Ragins, 2005 ). As a
related construct, reciprocity can be governed by
either communal or exchange norms, and it is
expected that mentoring relationships that use
exchange-based norms for reciprocity should be of
lower quality and have more problematic outcomes
than relationships that rely on communal-based
norms for reciprocity. For example, mentors who
expect or require that their protégés return a compa-
rable benefi t may be viewed as exploiting their pro-
tege (cf., Shore, Toyokawa, & Anderson, 2008 ),
whereas protégés who give to their mentor but later
expect a benefi t in return may be viewed as manipu-
lative (Eby et al., 2008 ). In contrast, mentors and
protégés who give to each other because of concern
for the well-being of their partner and their relation-
ship not only refl ect a state of relational mentoring,
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1but also off er a foundation for other relational pro-
cesses that further enhance the relationship.  e use
of social exchange models may therefore explain
average, marginal, or even dysfunctional mentoring
relationships, but do not capture the relational pro-
cesses inherent in high-quality relationships.
    
Relational mentoring is characterized by shared infl u-
ence, which involves the process by which members
infl uence and are infl uenced by each other (Ragins,
2005 ). Mutuality is the norm in high-quality men-
toring, and infl uence is based on the individual’s
expertise in a given mentoring episode, rather than
on their hierarchical position (Fletcher & Ragins,
2007 ). Although by defi nition mentors have more
experience in work or career domains, protégés bring
their own insights, life experiences, and talents to the
table, and mentors in high-quality relationships value
and are infl uenced by their protégés’ perspectives.
Hand-in-hand with shared infl uence is mutual
respect. Respect involves elements of admiration,
appreciation, and encouragement (Ferguson, 2003 ),
and in close personal relationships, incorporates a
perception that the partner has “admirable moral
qualities” that include wisdom, self-discipline, honor,
patience, and self-knowledge (Frei & Shaver, 2002 ).
Mutual respect is a prerequisite for shared infl uence
in mentoring relationships, and these characteristics
should be associated with mutual growth, learning,
and development in the mentoring relationship.
Shared infl uence refl ects interdependence in
the relationship. Interdependence in close relation-
ships involves vulnerability (Rusbult & Van Lange,
2003 ) and may also involve the ability of individu-
als to empower one another in a relational sense.
Relational empowerment involves reciprocal infl u-
ence, mutual empathy, concern, and vulnerability
in the relationship (Surrey, 1991 ), and therefore dif-
fers from other forms of empowerment that focus
more on control over work functions (Spreitzer,
2008 ). Although empowerment is often used inter-
changeably with shared infl uence, it is important to
preserve this distinction when examining mentor-
ing relationships. Mentors who are supervisors may
empower their protégés by giving them more con-
trol over their work functions.  is may be in addi-
tion to, or in place of, shared infl uence, which is a
mutual process that is not limited to work functions
(Jordan, 1991 ). Shared infl uence is broader in scope
than empowerment, and is better able to describe
processes in a range of mentoring relationships.
   
Although there are many diff erent conceptualiza-
tions of trust (Lewicki Tomlinson, & Gillespie,
2006 ), trust is commonly defi ned as “a psychologi-
cal state comprising the intention to accept vulner-
ability based upon positive expectations of the
intentions or behavior of another” (Rousseau,
Sitkin, Burt, & Camerer, 1998 , p. 395). Rousseau
and colleagues observe that trust is not a behavior
or a choice, but rather a psychological condition
that refl ects the willingness to be vulnerable under
conditions of risk and interdependence.
Relational trust may best refl ect the processes in
high-quality mentoring, as this type of trust comes
from the relationship itself (Lewicki, McAllister, &
Bies, 1998 ; McAllister, 1995 ). Calculus-based trust
involves the individual making a rational decision
to trust using an economic transaction approach,
whereas relational trust has an aff ective foundation
based on emotional bonds and the degree to which
members express genuine care and concern for their
partners (Lewis & Wiegert, 1985 ; McAllister,
1995 ). Relational trust refl ects communal norms
(Clark & Mills, 1979 ), in that individuals perceive
their partners as being committed to the relation-
ship and that they give on the basis of need rather
than self-interest (McAllister, 1995 ), and also incor-
porates elements of respect (Frei & Shaver, 2002 ).
Relational trust develops through repeated interac-
tions (Rousseau et al., 1998 ), or in the case of men-
toring, mentoring episodes (Fletcher & Ragins,
2007 ). Lewicki and colleagues observe that trust is
infl uenced not only by the length of the relation-
ship, but also by the frequency and depth of interac-
tions, and the diversity of challenges that are
successfully faced in the relationship (Lewicki et al.,
1998 ).
Relational trust is intricately connected to com-
mitment in high-quality work relationships and
other close relationships (Wieselquist, Rusbult,
Foster, & Agnew, 1999 ). In their analyses of trust
processes in positive relationships at work, Pratt and
Dirks ( 2007 ) point out that traditional perspectives
on trust use a social exchange perspective (e.g., “I’ll
trust you if you trust me”), which does not explain
how trust can be broken and then repaired in high-
quality relationships.  ey off er the idea that trust is
a relationship-based commitment in high-quality
relationships.  e commitment to the relationship
allows individuals to experience both the negative
eff ects of personal vulnerability as well as the posi-
tive benefi ts of being in a trusting relationship.
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1 Applying these perspectives to the mentoring
arena, it is reasonable to expect that high-quality
mentoring relationships involve aff ective forms of
relational trust that are grounded not only in the
commitment to the partner, but also in the commit-
ment to the relationship.  e development of this
type of trust not only takes time, but the opportu-
nity to engage in mentoring episodes that challenge
the relationship and allow members to illustrate their
commitment to each other and the relationship.
Future Directions
Future research could examine the antecedents, pro-
cesses, and outcomes of high-quality mentoring
relationships. Researchers could use the self-struc-
ture of mentoring framework (Ragins, 2009 ) and
mentoring schema theory (Ragins & Verbos, 2007 )
to examine how mentoring identities, schemas, and
possible selves combine to infl uence the develop-
ment of high-quality relationships. Self-structures
are shaped by past relationships and episodes,
but what types of specifi c experiences are most
important for developing relational mentoring? Can
individuals develop positive self-structures from
observing others, or do they need direct experience?
Do these relationships diff er for those in formal
mentoring relationships, and how can organizations
promote the development of positive self-structures
in the workplace?
Future research could also empirically examine
the relational cache cycle (Kram & Ragins, 2007 ).
Do the relational competencies developed in high-
quality mentoring relationships help individuals
create and sustain other high-quality relationships
within and outside the workplace? Are relational
caches passed between partners in high-quality
mentoring relationships, and can these caches be
passed across relationships to social networks within
and outside the workplace? Do these processes build
on each other to create an iterative cycle of positive
relationships across life domains?
e Relational Mentoring Index (RMI; Table 39.1 )
provided here off ers a fi rst step in examining the
functions and processes of high-quality mentoring
relationships. Future research needs to validate the
instrument and assess its ability to predict out-
comes of high-quality relationships.  e RMI could
also be tested in conjunction with traditional mea-
sures of mentoring roles and functions in order to
assess the added variance in outcomes that can be
accounted for by an inclusion of measures that tap
the characteristics of high-quality relationships.
Since the measure taps relational functions provided
by both members of the relationship, a dyadic
approach can be used to assess the psychometric
properties of the instrument for both mentors and
protégés.
A relational approach to mentoring also opens
the doors to examining an expanded array of
outcomes associated with the fi elds of POS
(Cameron et al., 2003 ), positive psychology (Snyder
& Lopez, 2002 ), and positive organizational behav-
ior (Luthans, 2002 ; Nelson & Cooper, 2007 ).
Mentoring scholars have assessed the quality of
mentoring relationships using traditional measures
that refl ect protégé’s job attitudes, compensation,
and advancement, but a relational approach off ers
an array of outcomes that refl ect personal growth,
learning, and development for both members of the
relationship (Fletcher & Ragins, 2007 ; Ragins,
2005 ; Ragins & Verbos, 2007 ). Using a holistic per-
spective (Ragins, 2008 ; Ragins & Dutton, 2007 )
the reach of relational mentoring may extend
beyond the workplace to infl uence quality of life in
the nonwork domain, and may predict such out-
comes as life satisfaction, physical and psychological
health, balance, and well-being.  e affi rmation of
identity in high-quality relationships has particular
resonance among those in marginalized identity
groups (Ragins, 2007 ; Roberts, 2007 ), and future
research could examine the conditions under which
mentoring helps workers manage marginalized and
stigmatized identities (Ragins, 2008 ). Finally, by
providing relational functions that build resilience
and capacity, high-quality mentoring may be a rela-
tional resource that buff ers both protégés and men-
tors from stressful life events and challenges that
originate from within and outside the workplace.
Conclusion
In conclusion, the fi eld of POS expands the lens
used to view mentoring relationships. Relational
mentoring off ers mentoring and relationship schol-
ars an unobstructed vision of the possibilities of
mentoring relationships and the potential of these
relationships to infl uence the quality of life across
domains.
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... Mentoring relationships, therefore, fall into a continuum with fully dysfunctional mentorship on the one end, "average" relationships around the middle, and relational mentoring near the other end (Ragins, 2012). Indeed, mentoring is not at all devoid of negative experiences (Scandura, 1998). ...
... The relational end of the continuum reflects relationships of exceptional quality that are "interdependent and generative" and promote "mutual growth, learning, and development within the career context" (Ragins, 2012:519). Such relationships differ not (only) quantitatively (e.g., amount of mentoring provided) but also qualitatively from "average" mentorship (Fletcher and Ragins, 2007;Ragins, 2012;Ragins and Verbos, 2007). ...
... The idea behind expecting that mentoring is helpful for mentors' careers is founded upon the principles of mutuality (see, for example, Ragins and Verbos, 2007;Ragins, 2012;and also Bozionelos, 2004), meaning that both parties are able to benefit from and grow within the relationship. Empirical research on career outcomes of mentors is still relatively sparse. ...
Chapter
Full-text available
This chapter focuses on mentorship and developmental networks within the context of careers. The various forms of mentoring are considered, along with the reasons that developmental networks have received attention as supplement rather than replacement of traditional mentoring. The chapter reviews empirical evidence demonstrating that mentoring and developmental networks are linked with career outcomes, and discusses the relative contribution of traditional mentoring relationships and the rest of developmental ties on career success. The two candidate mechanisms for the link between mentoring and career success, the performance and the political route, are presented and evidence for each is reviewed. Furthermore, factors that increase the probabilities of individuals’ involvement in mentoring relationships and of participation in developmental networks are discussed. Though the literature has paid nearly exclusive attention to their positive aspects, the chapter also looks at the darker sides of mentorship and developmental networks. These are not limited to negative mentoring experiences, but they extend to evidence in favour of the political route for the link of mentoring with career success along with the possibility that mentoring may serve as a means of transmitting and perpetuating unethical mentalities. The chapter ends with suggestions for future research.
... Network size refers to the number of developers in one's network. While a larger network of developers might increase the probability of getting different kinds of support, leveraging a large developmental network requires more relational work, especially if one is interested in building high quality relationships with their developers (Ragins, 2011). Hence, assessment of whether a large network is always beneficial is questionable and is likely to vary as per one's developmental needs, career stage, work context, and demographic factors (Murphy & Kram, 2014;Parker et al., 2019). ...
... To add to this variety of support exchanges, Ragins (2011) proposed relational mentoring functions (e.g., mutual learning and growth, inspiration, affirmation of best, ideal, and authentic selves, communal norms, shared influence and respect, trust and commitment) that emphasize a bidirectional, mutual, interdependent, and generative, developmental relationship benefiting both the developer and the developee. More recently, Ragins et al. (2017) has identified how mentors can enact holding behaviors defined as specific and intentional behaviors that buffer employees from anxiety-producing workplace experiences (Kahn, 2001). ...
Chapter
Full-text available
Our chapter focuses on the concept of a “developmental network” which includes individuals from one’s personal spheres of life outside organizational boundaries (e.g., family, friends, and neighbors) and within one’s professional sphere (e.g., peers, juniors, and seniors enacting mentoring and/or coaching) who may be invested in their growth and development. While research on the role of relationships in HRD has advanced considerably in the last 20 years, there is a dearth of research applying an evaluation perspective to developmental networks. We use the lens of evaluation to examine how one can proactively assess and leverage the potential of multiple one-on-one developmental relationships to positively impact performance, development, career success, and leadership. In doing so, the following key questions will be addressed: Why is it critical to design and assess developmental relationships at the network level? How do protégés, developers, and the organizational context shape the content (type of support) and the structure (the ties that comprise the networks) of developmental networks? How can we meaningfully assess the outcomes of developmental networks for developers and developees? Our chapter begins with an illustrative vignette that is carried throughout to demonstrate the practical value of using a developmental network perspective.
... In addition, preceptors emotional support provides socioemotional J o u r n a l P r e -p r o o f Journal Pre-proof resources to the preceptee, such as affection, understanding, acceptance, and esteem (Thoits, 1982). These benefits in turn positively influence preceptee evaluations of the relationship (Ragins, 2011) and increase preceptees' expectations that preceptors will react positively to them asking questions and seeking feedback (i.e., psychological safety). Thus: as well as questions about participants demographic characteristics, including age, gender, ethnicity, organizational tenure, years of work experience as a nurse, and number of preceptors they had during their preceptorship program. ...
Article
Full-text available
Background In many hospitals, newly-hired registered nurses (RNs) enter into preceptorships, where they are paired with more experienced nurse preceptors who are responsible for ensuring effective transition to practice. Although high-quality relationships between preceptors and newly-hired nurses facilitate nurses' learning and integration into their medical institutions, preceptors have little guidance for what tactics develop such relationships. Objectives To investigate whether the type of help provided by preceptors (i.e., autonomous or dependent help) influences preceptees' evaluations of relationship quality and psychological safety with their preceptor. Furthermore, we investigate the role of instrumental support and emotional support as explanatory mechanisms. Design/settings/participants/methods Convenience sampling was used to collect data via a cross-sectional survey of 217 in-patient RNs hired between June 2016 and May 2018 to a magnet hospital within the Southwestern United States. Recently hired nurses evaluated their preceptor's help-giving tendencies, and reported on their perceived support, relationship quality and feelings of psychological safety with their preceptor. Results Dependent help was positively related to instrumental support. Conversely, autonomous help was positively related to both relationship quality and psychological safety, and these relationships were partially mediated by perceived instrumental support and emotional support. Conclusion Findings illustrate the multiple benefits of autonomous help for encouraging high-quality relationships between preceptors and preceptees. This study identifies autonomous help-giving as a useful tactic for nurse preceptors (or other organizational insiders, such as mentors or supervisors) to establish high-quality relationships with recently hired nurses.
... In connection with the previous chapters, Kato (Chapter 9) again focuses on the concepts underpinning RMT as she takes a practical look at a mentoring programme for professional learning advisors. Here she draws on relational mentoring (Ragins, 2012), advising in language learning and its use of reflective dialogue (Kato & Mynard, 2016) and the importance of life-story narratives (Atkinson, 1998) to illustrate how the relationships formed in such a programme can be linked to facilitating autonomy support within the context of professional relationships and lead to enhancing the well-being of those involved. ...
Chapter
The aim of this final chapter is to reflect on our motives for putting together this volume, the reasons behind our belief in the necessity of bringing this book out into the world, and to re-examine the main currents that run through the different sections to provide a summary of what we can learn from the preceding chapters, and to consider where this might lead us.
... We leaned on the feminist and relational perspectives on co-mentoring to create a mutually empathic space for collaboratively practicing self and critical reflexivity while navigating the changing turf of work and home during the pandemic (Benishek et al., 2004;Cunliffe, 2016;Fletcher and Ragins, 2007;Moss et al., 1999;Pässilä et al., 2015;Vu and Burton, 2020). Unlike traditional mentoring that is limited in its scope to address task-oriented goals and does not focus on non-academic concerns, feminist and relational perspectives on mentoring advocate for an explicit concern for one's holistic growth and well-being at the intersections of work and family lives (Adams-Hutcheson and Johnston, 2019;Ragins, 2011). Our high-quality connection with each other offered the receptive context needed for us to experience our co-mentoring relationship as an act of care that enabled moments of reflexivity as we grappled with the challenges of work and family (Chawla and Rawlins, 2004;Curran et al., 2019). ...
Article
How are immigrant academic mothers negotiating the confounding terrains of work and family during the pandemic? How can they support each other in learning how to resist the prevalent notions of ideal working and mothering amidst the demanding schedule of working remotely and parenting? This study addresses these questions through sharing a narrative of how two immigrant mothers in academia challenged and began the journey of transforming their gendered work and family identities. Building on personal essays and 6 weeks of extensive journaling that reflected our positionalities and experiences of motherhood, work-life, and intersections between work and home during the pandemic, we offer a fine-grained understanding of how we helped each other as co-mentors to identify moments of our lived experiences as triggers for transformative learning. In doing so, we realized how duoethnography could be more than just a research methodology in helping us co-construct a relational space to empathize and challenge each other’s perspectives about our roles as mothers and professors and the gendered nature of social forces shaping those roles.
... On the other hand, psychosocial-related benefits include role modeling, acceptance and confirmation, counseling, and personal friendship. Later, Yip and Kram (2017) added a third category called relational development to capture the quality and closeness of the relationships based on the recent research on developmental relationships (i.e., Janssen et al., 2013;Ragins, 2012). Research has shown that the quality in these categories is positively associated with mentee outcomes (Carter & Youssef-Morgan, 2019;Chandler et al., 2011). ...
Chapter
This chapter addresses the intersection of three concepts: the impact of digitalization on the future of work, the blurring of work-life boundaries, and the role of developmental relationships. The advent of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and data science has transformed the way work is performed. The shifting conceptualization of work has inadvertently increased the speed of change that shapes the future of work through digital innovation. This shift will amplify the way we execute our work, the tools we use, the aesthetics of work, the issues associated with work, and the meaning of work. The lines between work and home have become fuzzier with the proliferation of remote working supported by technological enablement. The ability to balance work and family demands has therefore become a challenge for many people. Work and personal life have become intertwined to the extent that the blurring of work and family boundaries might lead to undesirable cognitive, emotional, and physiological effects. These undesirable effects might cause people to lose focus or motivation and hence experience difficulty in delivering the expected work outcomes. Developmental relationships will therefore play a critical role in mitigating these negative effects through formal and informal means by utilizing a variety of virtual platforms. This chapter addresses developmental relationships as mediating the psychological impact of remote working by promoting learning agility which leads to self-directed learning. We explore the role of developmental relationships in helping people navigate through the blurring of work-life boundaries and offers implications for HRD research and practice.
Article
Purpose Challenges with acculturation in organizations may make employees an easy target of workplace incivility and awareness of what constitutes uncivil behaviors at work can influence the association between acculturation and incivility. The current study examined the links between acculturation, incivility and tested mentor holding behavior as a moderator. Design/methodology/approach Survey data including responses to incivility vignettes were collected from 163 full-time first- and second-generation immigrant employees in the southeastern United States. The data were analyzed through moderated hierarchical regression analysis. Findings The results indicated that those experiencing separation or marginalization in trying to acculturate into the dominant culture reported experiencing uncivil behaviors from supervisors and coworkers. Also, one's awareness of incivility moderated the positive relationship between experience of separation and experiences of incivility, such that this relationship was stronger for those who had higher awareness of what constitutes uncivil behavior. Additionally, the effect of marginalization on reported incivility was dampened with higher levels of mentor holding behavior. Originality/value This study’s findings extend the application of the selective incivility theory beyond the minoritized categories of race and gender to the immigrants struggling with acculturation in organizations. Also, our study lends support to widening the theoretical lens for mentoring to include relational systems theory.
Article
In this article, we identify challenges and best practices associated with a formal mentoring program at a US military service academy. Although research has shown that mentored individuals benefit in numerous ways, little information exists regarding the effectiveness of formal mentoring in the military context. Because substantial time is dedicated to mentoring cadets in military academies, a research study on cadet mentoring experiences could yield preliminary evidence useful for validating current practices and/or pinpointing areas in need of improvement in such a highly structured environment.
Article
We examined the effect of type of mentoring relationship and its gender composition on mentoring functions and outcomes. Proteges with informal mentors viewed their mentors as more effective and received greater compensation than proteges with formal mentors. Gender composition had direct and moderating effects on mentoring functions/outcomes.