Mentoring functions' relationship with socialization facets and stages: a conceptual framework.

Author:Colakoglu, Sidika Nihal


The effect of early learning experiences on the newcomer's subsequent adjustment to the organization occupies a central position in research on organizational socialization. Louis (1980) defined organizational socialization as "a process by which an individual comes to appreciate the values, abilities, expected behaviors, and social knowledge essential for assuming an organizational role and for participating as an organization member" (pp. 229-230). In other words, socialization focuses on how individuals learn the beliefs, values, orientations, behaviors, skills, and so forth necessary to fulfill their new roles and function effectively within an organization (Ashforth & Saks, 1996; Van Maanen, 1976). Thus, socialization facilitates the adjustment of newcomers to organizations.

Socialization content is what is being imparted to the newcomer in the organization (Louis 1980). It refers to the information required to perform effectively in any organizationally defined role. Chao, O'Leary-Kelly, Wolf, Klein, and Gardner (1994) divided the information acquired during the socialization process into six categories: (1) performance proficiency--the identification of what needs to be learned and how well; (2) people-individual characteristics of organizational members: (3) politics--formal and informal power structures within the organization; (4) language -organization and group specific jargon; (5) organizational goals and values-formal and informal goals and values espoused by organizational members; (6) history-the organization's customs, traditions, myths, and rituals.

Several theoretical discussions of socialization have emphasized the importance of not just formal organizational processes, but also informal interactions between newcomers and insiders. Peers, supervisors, and mentors, often referred to as "agents" of socialization, are seen as playing an integral role in facilitating newcomer sense-making (Louis 1980; Reichers 1987). By interacting with experienced others, newcomers can gain a better understanding of events and practices within the organization. Further, various agents of socialization can facilitate socialization by providing newcomers with advice, job instructions, and social support (Louis, Posner, & Powell, 1983).

Mentors are considered as important agents that organizations use to socialize newcomers. A mentor, as one who helps a protege "learn the ropes" has the potential to exert a strong influence on newcomers during their earliest experiences in the organization (Kram & Hall, 1991), experiences that may be critical to their careers. Ostroff and Kozlowski (1993) noted that mentors were very instrumental in helping newcomers learn about the organizational domain. They found that newcomers were able to learn more about an organization and its practices if they had mentors. Chatman (1991) also found that spending more time with a mentor in the first year was positively associated with person-organization fit of newcomers.

Kram (1983) identified two categories of functions served by mentors for their protegees: career-enhancing and psychosocial functions. Career-enhancing functions include providing sponsorship, exposure, visibility, coaching, protection, and challenging assignments--activities that directly relate to the protege's career advancement. Psychosocial functions include providing role modeling, acceptance, confirmation, counseling, and friendship--activities that influence the protege's self-image and competence. Noe (1988) provided empirical support for Kram's (1983) two theoretical dimensions.

Only a few studies have investigated the relationship between mentoring functions and the facets of socialization (Allen, McManus, & Russell, 1999; Chao et al., 1994; Chao, 1997). Overall results indicated that mentoring was related to organizational socialization, and that the effects held up over time. In their meta-analysis Allen, Eby, Poteet, Lentz, and Lima (2004) were not able to examine effect sizes between mentoring and socialization due the limited number of studies conducted in this field. In addition, there is no specific study which tries to conceptually determine which specific aspects of mentoring (career-related and psychosocial) are more critical to the different facets of organizational socialization. Therefore, developing a conceptual framework which helps researchers to understand which specific aspects of mentoring (career-related and psychosocial) are more related to the different facets or dimensions of organizational socialization is the central idea of the first set of research propositions offered by the current study.

Organizational socialization is typically thought of as having three primary phases or stages which include: (1) anticipatory socialization: learning about an organization that occurs prior to becoming an employee, including information from recruitment efforts, the organization's reputation, and job previews: (2) encounter: becoming employee and learning through direct experience what the organization is actually like; (3) change and acquisition: mastering important skills and roles while adjusting to the work group's values and norms (Feldman, 1981). Each socialization stage is characterized by both different sets of activities that employees engage in and process variables that indicate progress through the socialization process. For instance, while individuals are concerned with forming expectations about their jobs and making employment decisions in the anticipatory socialization stage, they are more concerned with learning new tasks, establishing new relationships with coworkers and clarifying their roles in the organization in the encounter stage. Thus, it is possible to think that individuals in different stages of socialization may find different mentoring functions more useful or instrumental than others. Therefore, in the current study, the second set of propositions would explore which mentoring functions (career-related and psychosocial) could be found more important or desirable by newcomers in different phases of socialization.

In this study formal mentorship, instead of informal mentorship, will be used to describe mentor and newcomer relationships because of two basic reasons. First of all, Ostroff and Kozlowski (1992) suggest that mentoring can have its most dramatic impact soon after new members join the organization. Although this time is the time of greatest potential influence, it may also be the time when (informal) mentoring relationships are least likely to occur naturally due to their new and uncertain position as newcomers, their lack of self-confidence in establishing new relationships or time constraints (Ragins & Cotton, 1991). Such factors may support the idea that formal mentorship programs are necessary in organizations, particularly for newcomers (Ostroff and Kozlowski, 1993). Second, Chao et al. (1992) reported no significant differences between those involved in formal versus informal mentorship programs on socialization, intrinsic and extrinsic satisfaction, and salary outcome variables.

The current study is primarily focusing on the two socialization stages--encounter and change and acquisition--because since the current study examines the formal mentor-protege relationships within an organizational context, the anticipation stage of socialization does not have a relevance for the purposes of the study.


Mentoring Functions and Content Dimensions of Socialization

Feldman (1981) and Fisher (1986) propose that the content domains relevant to socialization generally include task demands, role attributes, work-group norms, and organizational climate and culture. Chao et al. (1994) identified six content dimensions of socialization-performance proficiency, politics, language, people, organizational goals/values, and history.

Performance proficiency is referred to the extent to which the individual has learned the tasks involved on the job. Fisher (1986) posited that "learning to perform the required work task is obviously a critical part of socialization" (p.107). This dimension is characterized by the identification of what needs to be learned and how well an individual masters the required knowledge, skills, and abilities to successfully perform his/her job. In their study Berlew and Hall (1966) indicated that having a challenging first job and a first superior with high...

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