Feedback Is the Driver of Successful Employee Mentoring

Topic(s): coaching, feedback, job performance
Publication: Journal of Vocational Behavior
Article: Protégé anxiety attachment and feedback in mentoring relationships 
Authors: T.D. Allen, K.M. Shockley, L. Poteat
Reviewed by: Sarah Teague

Many organizations have systems in place to help new hires transition smoothly into the workplace. This process is called socialization. One technique that has garnered increased attention and proven successful is employee mentoring. This process partners new hires (protégés) with experienced employees (mentors) who guide them through their transition to becoming full contributors to the organization.


A recent study (Allen, Shockley, & Poteat, 2010) sought to investigate the feedback process in mentor-protégé relationships and the impact that feedback has on performance, particularly with regard to individuals exhibiting anxious attachment styles. According to the authors, anxious attachment is when people are “preoccupied with thoughts about relationships and the need for approval.” These individuals typically have a more negative view of themselves and desire to protect themselves from failure and rejection.

Results show that protégés exhibiting anxious attachment engaged in less feedback seeking and were less likely to accept the feedback offered to them by mentors. Additionally, protégé feedback acceptance was linked to more frequent (and better quality) feedback from the mentor. Finally, higher frequencies (though not quality) of feedback provided by mentors resulted in higher protégé productivity.


Feedback is hugely important in mentor-protégé relationships in terms of both protégé development and the organizational bottom-line. Results also suggest that organizations implementing mentoring programs need to be attentive to individual differences that may impact feedback-seeking and encourage mentors to work through this with their protégés as part of the experience.


Allen, T. D., Shockley, K. M., & Poteat, L. (2010). Protégé anxiety attachment and feedback in mentoring relationships. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 77(1), 73–80.