Mentoring, Networks, and Leadership

Mentoring, Networks, and Leadership

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-4384-9.ch004
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Relationships of many kinds exist within organizations. They can be related to reporting structures, such as those with supervisors and direct reports, or they can result from work overlaps, such as relationships with co-workers in the department or colleagues on committees. Mentorship is a special kind of work relationship that is often tied to professional outcomes. Workplace friendships, both deep and casual, that cut across structural boundaries are not uncommon. These workplace relationships vary widely in terms of the benefits that accrue from them as well as the effort required in maintaining them. At the same time, managing work relationships has a critical impact on career experiences and career progress. In this chapter, the authors discuss research on various types of organizational relationships and their implications for Asian women.
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As noted in earlier chapters, an organization is defined as a group of people working together towards a common goal (Uhl-Bien et al., 2014). In Chapter 2, we discussed how organizations function through the processes of division of work, specialization, and coordination. Chapter 3 focused on the workforce characteristics (diversity) and functioning (culture) of the people within an organization. In this chapter we consider the “working together” facet of organizations. This includes important relationship-based aspects such as mentoring, networks, and leadership.

Organizational work is more than simply a collection of designated jobs being performed by employees. At lower organizational levels, jobs consist of specified tasks, and the main responsibility of employees is to complete work assigned to them (Ibarra, 1993b). Each job in the organization is linked to other jobs through explicit reporting structures. At higher levels, jobs and their connections become more complex. Managers might have to plan a large portion of their work and that of their subordinates. They might also need to interact with others in the organization for various reasons. Interactions typically occur with peers, coworkers, bosses, subordinates, and cross-departmental colleagues in team structures or for specific pieces of work. The impact of interpersonal interactions is likely to increase with the level of the employees concerned. Hence, working together becomes more complicated than a simple coordination of tasks. Jobs become less well-defined and performance evaluation becomes complex in these situations. As Akutagawa (2013, p. 281) commented, rather than technical expertise, soft skills such as developing a personal brand and networks become “the differentiator at mid-senior levels.”

Connections and relationships of various kinds exist in the workplace. Some are attached to an employee’s position, such as links with the supervisor and with coworkers. Other relationships might be work-related but are not connected via reporting relationships. These include cross-functional teams or groups and special committees. Yet other relationships might be indirectly work-related and more inter-personal or developmental, such as those with mentors or sponsors. Workplace relationships can have short-term or long-term impacts. Short-term impacts affect the employee’s performance and work output, whereas long-term impacts affect career pathways and progression. Ibarra (1993a, p. 494) noted that workplace connections have the “potential to mobilize, through direct and indirect links, a much broader base of support than that implied by the reporting relationships or functional requirements of the organizational chart.” In a similar vein, Schein (1978, p. 265) noted that “one of the most significant components of successful power acquisition is the development of informal/influence relationships.” Employees who are skilled in developing and managing relationships are likely to accrue career benefits in tangible ways.

Organizations have a vested interest in developing leadership characteristics in their employees. Employees in key leadership positions have significant power to influence changes and are responsible for making important decisions with immediate and long-term impacts (Hoyt, 2005, p. 2). Managers at higher levels of the organization are required to exhibit greater levels of leadership qualities. This includes taking ownership and responsibility for specific work outputs, decision making with high levels of uncertainty, and managing a greater number and variety of employees.

Individuals need to know how to cultivate, maintain, and utilize workplace relationships. Managing these relationships affects not only their work performance and work experience but their career progress as well. Employees who are interested in ascending the organizational hierarchy also need to understand leadership and how it manifests in the workplace. This chapter describes different types of networks and ties, including the special workplace relationship of mentoring. It also discusses leadership from the perspective of models and types of organizational leadership.

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