Health Care Mentoring – Protege Needs

“Organizational Mentoring: What About Protege Needs?”

By Dr. Janine Knackstedt, whose research on health care professionals won the 2001 Dr. Hope Richardson – IMA Outstanding Dissertation Award


About the Winner

Dr. Janine Knackstedt, the 2001 winner of the IMA Dissertation Award, is a long time member of the IMA from Quebec, Canada. Janine was presented a plaque announcing her award and a check for $1000 at a luncheon held at the recent annual conference of the IMA in Washington D.C. The presentation was made by Dr. Linda Stromei, IMA Board of Directors member, chair of the Dissertation Award Committee, and is herself the 1999 Award winner.

The Findings of the Study

Janine shared the findings of her study at the IMA annual conference in Washington D.C. She found that studies in organizations have almost exclusively measured mentoring occurrences / events. Her research on health care
professionals uniquely contributed to the mentoring literature in two ways.

First, the importance of examining mentoring needs from the protégé’s perspective was empirically demonstrated. Six types of protege needs for mentoring were identified:

  • Professional development
  • Sponsorship and recognition
  • Equal partnership – mutual and reciprocal learning and support
  • Friendship
  • Coaching on work issues and skills
  • Role modeling.

Further, the construct of mentoring needs was different from the construct of mentoring occurrences.  In other words, what protégés need in terms of mentoring behavior is different from what they received.

The Value of Knowing Protege Mentoring Needs

Janine stated that, from a practical viewpoint, determining individual protege needs for mentoring is important for many reasons.

  • Employees have different needs.
    • When their needs are met, they are more able to grow professionally.
    • When their needs are not met, those unmet needs often become obstacles to individual professional development.
  • In an informal program, mentors provide different mentoring functions according to their own skills, abilities, personal style, and motivation.
  • Formal programs which are not based on best practice, are often designed to address organizational needs and serve organizational goals like orientation, retention, skill development, succession, etc.
  • Naturally, when this is the case, mentors typically are only expected to provide mentoring according to what the organization needs. The result of this narrow focus is that the individual needs and goals of proteges are frequently overlooked and left unmet.
  • Assessing and designing mentoring to address individual protege needs helps programs to better balance and align individual and organizational needs.
  • Mentoring that is designed to meet individual protege needs provides proven benefits during times of organizational change and restructuring.
  • Mentoring can be used as a powerful tool for leaders who wish to assess and improve the climate of their organization
  • Mentoring that is designed to meet individual needs can significantly increase the effectiveness of formalized mentoring programs.

Additional Gender Related Findings

Janine’s research also demonstrated the value in examining the gender component of the mentoring pair in future mentoring research.

1. Female protégés who had a male mentor distinguished themselves from their peers in that they expressed stronger mentoring needs than male protégés with male mentors. This was especially true for the mentoring functions of professional development, equal partnership, coaching on work issues, and role modeling.

2. Female protégés who had a male mentor also received more mentoring functions compared to protégés in other forms of gender pairing, specifically for sponsorship and recognition, coaching on work issues, and role modeling.

A follow up study revealed that female protégés who had a male partner were not more competitive, more ambitious, nor more in need of power and achievement than their peers in other pairs.

With regards to the person consulted for specific mentoring behaviors, it was found that women approached women to discuss personal issues but they had no gender preference with regard to the person consulted for career developmental matters.

Men, on the other hand, always approached men regardless of the issue.

Women who preferred consulting men for career advancement issues were younger, more junior, had a greater need for achievement, and tended to have a greater need for power than women who consulted with other women.