Employees’ ability to see things from another perspective should be considered before they are selected for a mentoring scheme, researchers have suggested, after finding that empathetic high-performers are the most likely to reap career mentoring benefits.
Researchers at Durham University Business School, Tongji University, Nanjing University and the Chinese University of Hong Kong found that people who are unable to put themselves in another person’s shoes are unlikely to see their mentoring programme deliver value for themselves and their employer.
They advised employers to consider which employees have this quality to ensure their programmes achieve maximum success.
Their research involved two studies: one involving more than 200 employees and their supervisors at a logistics company and China, and another involving 192 full-time workers in China who were recruited via a survey.
Both studies found that mentors tend to choose protégés who have higher performance. However, the benefits the exercise can have on both parties will be significantly weakened if the person being mentored is unable to understand the perspectives of others. This is because the supervisor will largely see more costs than benefits in mentoring the individual.
Supervisors who consider their protégé to lack the ability to see situations from another perspective will become disengaged in the process, which in turn affects supervisors’ willingness to mentor.
Their study in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology suggests that organisations should provide more opportunities for employees to understand each other’s roles, perspectives and values to advance high-performers’ careers and improve collaboration.
Professor Janey Zheng, assistant professor of leadership at Durham University Business School said: “Career mentoring is not only beneficial to protégés but to mentors and their organisations too. It can help to boost protégés’ pay, promotions and career development, but can also be used as a vital tool by organisations for employee retention, greater team performance and transformational leadership. Therefore, it makes sense for both organisations and employees to invest time in it.
“However, a lack of perspective-taking by protégés risks jeopardising all these benefits, therefore it’s key that organisations greater manage this mentoring relationship and ensure that the right employees are chosen and developed through mentoring.”