4 November 2020

Research pick: Mentoring the good, the bad, and the ugly - "Is a bad mentor better than no mentor?"

Mentoring is usually seen as an important part of one’s personal development whether one is in education or employment. But, research published in the International Journal of Learning and Change looks at whether no mentor is sometimes better than a bad mentor.

Jiwon Jung and Barry Bozeman of the Center for Organization Research and Design, School of Public Affairs at Arizona State University, in Phoenix, suggest that the research literature in the field of mentoring in the workplace has given scant mention to the negative effects one might experience under mentoring schemes. The team analysed information from 3000 respondents – full-time workers – asked about their experiences, their job satisfaction, and salary.

The team writes that “The quality of the mentoring experience influences job satisfaction more while a mere presence of a mentor is important for the salary of the protégés.” Of course, there are many endogenous factors that affect mentees differently and perception of what is good or bad mentoring are also subjective so it is difficult to unravel the impact of mentoring on job satisfaction and salary.

The team has looked specifically at eight types of bad mentoring and offers suggestions that can explain some of the unexpected and curious findings they report. One particularly surprising finding from their research is that people working in the public sector with a mentor, unlike workers in the private and non-profit sectors, generally have a lower salary and job satisfaction compared to those who have no mentor.

Jung, J. and Bozeman, B. (2020) ‘Is a bad mentor better than no mentor?’, Int. J. Learning and Change, Vol. 12, No. 4, pp.444–475.

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