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Career mentorship is most successful for young, high-performers who are empathetic and able to understand the perspective of others, according to new research from Durham University Business School.

The research shows that high-performers who are able to properly understand supervisory mentors’ thinking, avoid misunderstandings and understand the perspectives of others are mostly like to recieve career mentoring.

This research was conducted by Janey Zheng, an Assistant Professor of Leadership at Durham University Business School, alongside colleagues from Tongji University, Nanjing University and the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

These academics wanted to understand when and why high performers may fail to obtain supervisory career mentoring, and the types of characteristics that affect the successfulness of mentoring for high-performance proteges.

In order to do so, the researchers conducted two studies. The first was a study of over 200 employees and their paired supervisors at a Chinese logistics company. The second study was an experimental study with 192 full-time employees in China, recruited via a survey platform. They were asked to read various scenarios to understand their willingness to provide career mentoring to the subordinate in the scenarios, with various level of perspective-taking and task performance in the workplace.

Both studies found that supervisory mentors may tend to choose protégés who have higher performance, but the positive effect of protégé performance on supervisor career mentoring will be significantly weakened if the protégé is unable to understand the perspectives of others because supervisors perceive more cost than benefits mentoring those protégés.

Professor Janey Zheng says,

“Career mentoring is not only beneficial to proteges but to mentors and their organisations too. It can help to boost proteges 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.”

These findings clearly show that before beginning mentoring of younger, high-performing employees, it is important the supervisors conduct a cost-benefit analysis on the protégé and their characteristics, to ensure that the mentoring scheme will be beneficial to both the protégé, but also the company too, say the researchers.

The researchers suggest that all employees, especially high performers, should also intentionally develop their perspective-taking competence in order to reduce their supervisors’ relational concerns and obtain career mentoring. While organisations should also create both training and more opportunities for employees to understand each other’s roles, perspectives and values further to advance high-performers careers and improve collaboration in organisations.

The full research paper can be viewed via this link:

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