Dysfunction in Cross-Gender and Cross-Race Mentoring
Mentoring can provide many benefits to protégés, including increased career satisfaction, more numerous promotions, and more interesting job opportunities. Unfortunately, these benefits are most likely to occur when mentors and protégés are similar, both in demographics (e.g., race, nationality, gender) and in deeper level similarities. However, since there is a shortage of senior people who are women or members of visible minorities, it is likely that female and visible minority protégés will be mentored by white men. Given that cross-gender and cross-race mentoring relationships are less successful, one would expect them to be characterized by more dysfunction. For example, male mentors with female protégés are faced with the difficulties arising from office gossip, accusations of sexual harassment, and jealous spouses. These difficulties impair the formation of a strong and trusting mentoring relationship. Other forms of dysfunction in mentoring relationships have been documented in the literature and range from mismatches between mentor and mentee, to sabotage or deceit on the part of the mentor.
The objective of this paper is to compare same-gender/race mentoring to cross-gender/race mentoring to identify the types of dysfunction, how the dysfunction differs between groups and what human resource interventions are necessary to mitigate the effects of this dysfunction.
Keywords: Mentoring, Dysfunctional Behaviour
Dr. Joanne D. Leck
Associate Professor, School of Management, University of Ottawa
Research Assistant, University of Ottawa