Are you my mentor? Informal mentoring mutual identification

Elizabeth Torney Welsh (Opus College of Business, University of St Thomas, St Paul, Minnesota, USA)
Devasheesh Bhave (John Molson School of Business, Concordia University, Montreal, Canada)
Kyoung yong Kim (University of Houston, Houston, Texas, USA)

Career Development International

ISSN: 1362-0436

Publication date: 18 May 2012



The purpose of this study is to understand the extent to which potential mentors and protégés agree that an informal mentoring relationship exists. Because these relationships are generally tacitly understood, either the mentor or protégé could perceive that there is a mentoring relationship when the other person does not agree. Whether gender affects this is also to be examined.


Individuals were asked to identify their mentoring partners. Each report of a partner was then compared to the partner's list to determine whether there was a match (i.e. both reported the relationship as an informal mentoring relationship) or a mismatch (i.e. where one partner reported the relationship as an informal mentoring relationship but the other did not). This pattern of matches and mismatches was then analyzed to determine level of matching and gender differences.


There is little agreement between mentoring partners: neither potential protégés nor potential mentors were very accurate at identifying reciprocal informal mentoring partners. However, gender was not found to be related to different levels of matching.


Previous work has not examined whether potential informal mentoring partners perceive the relationship in the same way. This has implications for employees who are depending upon their mentoring partners for support that may not be forthcoming because the partner does not view the relationship similarly. The findings also have implications for researchers, particularly when studying mentoring relationships from only one perspective and implicitly assuming agreement between partners.



Torney Welsh, E., Bhave, D. and yong Kim, K. (2012), "Are you my mentor? Informal mentoring mutual identification", Career Development International, Vol. 17 No. 2, pp. 137-148.

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