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The term mentor is one with a long history. (Alred, Garve & Smith, 2000) As related in Homer's Odyssey, Mentor was the noble friend whom Odysseus (known as Ulysses by the Romans) asked to protect his household (including his wife) and to educate and care for his son (Telemachus). Athena, goddess of war and wisdom, took the form of Mentor on occasion to give wise and useful advice to both Odysseus and his son—advice that would most likely have been rejected had Athena appeared in her true female form. Thus, the term mentor comes to us from an oral saga first told hundreds of years B.C.E. and encompassing behaviours of nurturance, counselling, and support.

Mentors and their protégés typically form a one-to-one relationship in which the mentor, older or more experienced than the protégé, facilitates upward mobility and provides advice, protection, and guidance. Mentors typically provide three types of support to their protégés. Vocational support enhances the career of the protégé by providing advice, sponsorship, or protection. Psychosocial support facilitates the social-emotional stability of the protégé by providing friendship, acceptance, and reassurance. Role modelling promotes growth of the protégé by demonstrating appropriate behaviour. Since the 1980s, many businesses, schools, and non-profit organisations have instituted mentoring programmes to facilitate retention and development of employees, students, and trainees. At the same time, researchers have assessed both formal and informal mentoring relationships to determine the benefits of being mentored and the conditions under which these benefits are most likely to accrue.

Workplace Mentoring

Workplace mentoring is generally described as a relationship between two individuals, usually a senior and a junior employee, in which the senior employee teaches the junior employee about his or her job, introduces the junior employee to contacts, orients the employee to the industry and organisation, and addresses social and personal issues that may arise on the job. (Zachary & Daloz, 2000) The mentoring relationship is different from other organisational relationships (e.g., supervisor- subordinate) in that the mentoring parties may or may not formally work together, the issues addressed may include nonwork matters, and the bond between mentor and protégé is usually closer and stronger than that of other organisational relationships.

Mentoring Functions and Stages

Mentors provide two primary functions to their protégés. Psychosocial mentoring focuses on the enhancement of identity, competence, and effectiveness in the professional role and includes role modelling, acceptance and confirmation, counselling, and friendship (Dreher & Cox, 1996). Career-related mentoring focuses on success and advancement within the organisation and includes sponsorship, coaching, exposure and visibility, protection, and challenging assignments.

Mentoring relationships have been theorized to progress through four distinct stages. In the initiation stage, the mentor and protégé are just beginning the relationship and learning about each other. During the second phase, known as cultivation, the greatest amount of learning occurs and benefits are obtained. As the needs of the mentor and protégé evolve, the partnership enters the separation phase. During this phase, the protégé begins to assert independence, and the mentor begins to consider that he or she has no additional knowledge ...
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