A Perspective

August 2, 2017 | Author: Mie Jah | Category: Mentorship, Emotional Intelligence, Self-Improvement, Emotions, Journeyman
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A perspective on effective mentoring in the construction industry Krista Hoffmeister Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado, USA

Konstantin P. Cigularov Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia, USA

Effective mentoring in construction 673 Received October 2009 Revised January 2011 Accepted February 2011

Julie Sampson and John C. Rosecrance Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado, USA, and

Peter Y. Chen University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia Abstract Purpose – The present study aims to provide a perspective on effective mentoring in the construction industry by examining key mentor characteristics as perceived by construction professionals. Design/methodology/approach – A total of 170 union construction workers rated 55 mentor characteristics based on to what extent each was characteristic of a superior, average, or poor mentor. Findings – To identify the most important mentor characteristics, three criteria were relied on: means of characteristic ratings of a superior mentor; effect sizes of mean differences between ratings of poor and superior mentors; and correlations between characteristic ratings of superior mentors and satisfaction with mentors. Significant mean differences were found between characteristics of poor and average mentors as well as between poor and superior mentors. Research limitations/implications – Possible future directions include an investigation of the relationship between competent mentors and personal characteristics, and potential health and safety outcomes resulting from effective mentoring in the construction industry. Originality/value – Although mentoring has been the focus of much research, the mentoring relationship is quite different in the construction industry and little mentoring research has targeted this industry. To develop an effective mentoring program in this industry, one of the initial steps is to identify characteristics of effective mentors in this industry. Keywords Mentor characteristics, Construction, Mentoring, Construction industry Paper type Research paper

Introduction Over the past three decades, mentoring in the workplace has become the focus of much research and discussion (e.g. Alleman et al., 1984; Fagenson, 1989; Ploeg et al., 2008; This article is based on the honors thesis of Krista Hoffmeister, which was directed by Peter Y. Chen. The study was supported by the Center to Protect Workers’ Rights (CPWR) as part of a cooperative agreement with NIOSH (OH008307), and Occupational Health Psychology Training, NIOSH (1T42 OH009229-01). Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of NIOSH and CPWR.

Leadership & Organization Development Journal Vol. 32 No. 7, 2011 pp. 673-688 q Emerald Group Publishing Limited 0143-7739 DOI 10.1108/01437731111169997

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Raabe and Beehr, 2003). Mentoring can be defined as a developmental and supportive relationship between a senior, more experienced employee and a junior, less experienced employee (Kram, 1985). Mentoring has been associated with salary increase and promotion (Chao et al., 1992), higher job satisfaction and self-respect (Allen et al., 2004; Underhill, 2006), and higher organizational commitment (Donaldson et al., 2000). The above findings have highlighted the need to identify the characteristics that are necessary to be an effective mentor. However, most studies on mentor characteristics to date have focused on white-collar workers in industries such as education, health care, technology, finance, and communications (e.g. Allen and Poteet, 1999; Burke et al., 1993; Milner and Bossers, 2004; Smith et al., 2005). Due to its dynamic nature and complex organization of work, the construction industry is different from other industries (Ringen et al., 1995a), particularly from typical white-collar jobs. Past research has suggested mentoring as a key component of construction work and has recognized the need for mentoring programs to develop leaders in the construction industry (Rogers, 2007). However, no empirical research to date has systematically examined and identified the critical characteristics of mentors in the construction industry, which would provide fundamental information for the development of mentoring programs. Considering that the construction industry plays a major role in national economies (Behm, 2008), and its trade training is primarily built upon a mentorship model for apprentices (Melia´ and Becerril, 2007; Sobeih et al., 2006), the present study attempts to identify what constitutes an effective mentor from the perspective of construction professionals. Finding the answer to the above question is critical to the success of any mentoring program, as it can guide program developers in their decisions about whom to target, what content to include, and the methods needed to develop competent and effective mentors in the construction industry. In this study, we systematically identified and examined a list of characteristics that distinguished good from average and poor mentors in the construction industry, drawing on mentoring, coaching, and emotional intelligence literatures. More specifically, we investigated the extent to which three randomly assigned groups of union construction workers differed in how they rated a list of characteristics to be representative of superior, average, and poor mentors, respectively. Three criteria were used to determine which characteristics were deemed most important for mentors to possess: (1) mean ratings of characteristics of a superior mentor; (2) effect sizes of mean differences between ratings of poor and superior mentors; and (3) correlations between ratings of superior mentor characteristics and satisfaction with mentors. This study extends existing knowledge about mentor characteristics to the construction industry and addresses a gap in research about the attributes that are most characteristic of effective mentors in construction. In the following section, we discuss the definition and benefits of mentoring. Then, we review past research on mentoring characteristics and the role of mentoring in the construction industry. Definition and benefits of mentoring The word “mentor” and the concept of mentoring date back to Greek mythology when Odysseus entrusted his son, Telemachus, to a close friend, who would oversee not only

his professional development, but also his personal and social growth (Hamilton, 1942). This friend, named Mentor, has since become a symbol of physical, intellectual, social, and administrative development (Clawson, 1985). While there are many different definitions of mentoring, these definitions have only slight variations, which serve to clarify the nature of the mentor-prote´ge´ relationship (Bozeman and Feeney, 2007). The present study used Kram’s (1985) original and sufficiently broad definition of a mentor as a senior, more experienced employee, who serves as a role model and aids in the development of a junior, less experienced employee, the prote´ge´. The mentor-prote´ge´ relationship has been recognized as an alliance that increases the competence and performance of prote´ge´s through the transmission of formal knowledge, such as technical aspects of the profession, as well as informal knowledge, such as the organization’s politics (Alleman et al., 1984). Mentoring has been positively associated with many career and psychosocial outcomes (Allen et al., 2004; Chao et al., 1992; Scandura, 1997; Underhill, 2006). For example, Chao et al. (1992) found that people participating in informal mentorships reported more career-related support, higher salaries, and higher job satisfaction than those who had no mentoring relationships. In their meta-analysis, Allen et al. (2004) also found positive associations between mentorship and job and pay satisfaction. In another recent meta-analysis, individuals who had been mentored felt more respect from their co-workers, had a more positive self-image, and felt less work stress and work-family conflict (Underhill). In addition, mentored individuals tend to feel more job security and have more positive perceptions of procedural and distributive justice than non-mentored individuals (Scandura). Research has also examined the benefits of having a mentoring program in an organization. The existence of a formal mentoring program is now being used as a criterion for determining the “Best Companies to Work For” (Branch, 1999). Consistent with this, Allen and O’Brien (2006) found that job seekers are more attracted to organizations that have formal mentoring programs compared to those that do not have them. Characteristics of mentors The positive effects of mentoring found in the literature may depend, in part, on the characteristics of the mentors. Studies of both mentors and prote´ge´s have identified a number of desirable mentor characteristics (Allen and Poteet, 1999; Clark et al., 2000; Cronan-Hillix et al., 1986; Milner and Bossers, 2004; Smith et al., 2005). While the characteristics identified in these studies are relatively similar, the methods by which they were obtained and reported vary widely. For example, one study of prote´ge´s’ opinions on the important characteristics of mentors asked psychology graduate students to list, in order, the five most important characteristics of good mentors (Cronan-Hillix et al., 1986). These characteristics were then weighted according to ranking and the top five were reported. These were: (1) supportive; (2) knowledgeable; (3) sharing/giving; (4) resourceful; and (5) having a good attitude.

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A later study done by Clark et al. (2000) asked recent doctorates in clinical psychology if they had experienced a mentoring relationship with a faculty member. If they had, they were asked to list the three most important characteristics of the mentor. Characteristics were then sorted and combined based on similarity, resulting in 118 distinct categories. The characteristics reported were similar to those of Cronan-Hillix et al. (1986); however, the ranking of these was different, and many more characteristics were reported, such as empathic, available and honest. Another approach to examining this question was taken by Allen and Poteet (1999), who asked mentors from various organizations to give their opinions on the ideal characteristics of mentors. Responses were grouped into 37 dimensions and ranked according to frequency. While the list of characteristics is similar to that of the prote´ge´s’ lists, the ranking is slightly different and characteristics such as listening and communication skills, patience, and having the ability to read and understand others, were added to the list. Milner and Bossers (2004) combined these approaches by asking occupational therapy students to state five qualities included in their definition of a mentor. Mentors were also asked this question, and the qualities listed by both groups were compared for agreement. The researchers then relied on level of agreement between mentors and mentees when reporting the characteristics, which were ranked differently than previous lists. Smith et al. (2005) also combined the approaches and relied on a nine-member Delphi panel consisting of mentoring program administrators and experts from the academic, business and military industry to generate a list of characteristics that mentors should possess. Next, the 38 agreed upon characteristics were developed into a survey and given to a class of doctoral students. Both lists of characteristics were reported, and again while the lists remain very similar, the ranking changed. These few studies examining the ideal characteristics of mentors have used different strategies to answer their questions, all resulting in similar lists of responses. However, most of these studies seem to rely on samples of students and faculty at universities, with only two branching out into industry, one of which (Allen and Poteet, 1999) included a blue collar industry (manufacturing). Even so, a review of the literature reveals that no study to date has focused on the characteristics of ideal mentors in the construction industry. The characteristics of mentors in the construction industry are likely similar to those found in other industries; however, based on the literature mentioned above, it is likely that the ranking of importance of these characteristics will differ. The identification of the characteristics of ideal mentors and their importance in the construction industry would serve as a starting point mentoring programs in this field. Mentoring in the construction industry Mentoring is a key element in construction work (Rogers, 2007). For example, it is very common on construction jobsites to have experienced workers, who oversee and mentor less experienced workers. However, the relationship between a mentor and his/her prote´ge´ in the construction industry may be different from the mentoring relationships typically observed in other industries, due to constantly changing work environment and crews, diverse and rapid tasks, and the short-term relationships that prote´ge´s have with their mentors (Ringen et al., 1995b). Jobs in the construction industry can last from a few days to a few years, so the length of any mentor-prote´ge´

relationship varies widely by the job at hand; however, in most cases the relationship is short-term (Ringen et al., 1995a). There are two potential areas for mentoring relationships to develop on construction jobsites. First, novice workers (i.e. apprentices) are usually mentored by their more experienced co-workers, journeymen. Senior journeymen work with apprentices in order to help them become accustomed to the industry, learn and hone their skills, and serve as a role model during the apprentice training. Journeymen, in turn, are usually overseen by even more experienced workers, who are in the position of foremen or general foremen (Rogers, 2007). It is atypical for apprentices to be mentored directly by foremen, as apprentices interact mostly with other apprentices and their specific journeymen. Apprentices are often assigned to work with different journeymen during different days and jobsites. Therefore, the individuals that offer help and advice to apprentices are constantly changing, and senior journeymen are continuously overseeing different apprentices for different lengths of time. In addition, experienced journeymen are often given the chance to step up to the role of a foreman on different jobsites and projects. As mentors, foremen tend work with and oversee journeymen as prote´ge´s, assisting them in their career; advising them on how to mentor apprentices, as well as training them to successfully plan and execute a job. An individual foreman can oversee multiple journeymen, and each journeyman has more than one foreman, thus skewing the traditional view of a single, lasting mentor-prote´ge´ relationship. Characteristics of mentors in the construction industry While the studies mentioned earlier generated lists of characteristics important for mentors in the construction industry, these lists were not identical, and it is therefore possible that these lists were not exhaustive. Thus, to create an exhaustive list of characteristics for this study, additional literature related to mentoring characteristics was consulted. One of these additional areas was peer mentoring. According to Kram (1985), peer relationships can potentially serve the same functions as mentoring, while being more available to individuals. The nature of the construction industry lends itself to peer mentoring in the sense that while technically the journeymen oversee the apprentices and the foremen oversee the journeymen, they are all working at the same task side by side and frequently take breaks and eat lunch together, potentially resulting in friendship and the view of being peers rather than in a hierarchy. Thus, peer mentoring is an appropriate avenue for exploring other characteristics of mentors in the construction industry. In her study, Kram interviewed 25 pairs of individuals in the manufacturing industry, and the characteristics reported were similar to those found in traditional mentoring studies, while adding a few to the list (able to discover common values and beliefs, is a role model, provides emotional support, and expresses concern for others). Next, it is important to note that individuals in the construction industry begin as apprentices, work to become journeymen, and if desired, train further to become a foreman. Therefore, every mentor in construction is potentially training the next “leader” that will mentor a younger individual. This concept is very similar to that of executive coaching, in the sense that executive coaches serve to coach on skills focused on specific tasks, job performance, development with the future in mind, and on work

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specific to the individual’s agenda (Witherspoon and White, 1996). Evidence from research on executive coaching suggests that the characteristics for both mentors and executive coaches are similar; however, executive coaches also possess characteristics such as being interpersonally savvy, having a customer focus, and taking appropriate action during crisis (Brotman et al., 1998). Last, an examination of each of the lists of characteristics revealed that all of them touched on the idea of emotional intelligence as being important, for example by stating that characteristics such as “empathic,” “understands others,” “interpersonally savvy” and “expresses emotions naturally” were important. The concept of emotional intelligence refers to the ability of a person to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them, and take appropriate actions based on these perceptions (Salovey and Mayer, 1990). Emotional intelligence was later defined as consisting of four separate parts: appraisal and expression of emotion in oneself, appraisal and recognition of emotion in others, regulation of emotion in oneself, and use of emotion to facilitate performance (Mayer and Salovey, 1997). In the construction industry, the tight deadlines, working with and around other trades, and the potential dangers of the job can create an atmosphere of tension and anxiety. A mentor in construction with emotional intelligence could potentially regulate these emotions and balance them, while meeting deadlines and completing tasks safely. A study conducted by Law et al. (2004) supports this idea, as peers’ ratings of emotional intelligence were predictive of supervisory ratings of in-role and extra-role performance in an employee sample. Past research from these areas will aid in the development of an exhaustive list of potential characteristics for mentors in the construction industry. In addition to creating a unique list that combines different literatures, the present study takes a slightly different approach to identifying the key mentor characteristics as perceived by construction professionals. Methods Participants and procedure A total of 170 plumbers and steamfitters attending a safety seminar for union construction workers in a Northwest region of the United States were invited to participate voluntarily in the study. The mean age of the group was 49.9 years (SD ¼ 8.58 years) and 94.7 percent were male. Of the sample, 91.9 percent identified themselves as Caucasian and 8.1 percent identified themselves as other ethnicities. The average number of years in the trade was 23.62 (SD ¼ 10.32 years). Those that worked in the construction area comprised 84.9 percent of the sample, whereas 7.8 percent worked in the service area and 7.2 percent worked in both areas. While only 58.7 percent of the group had participated in a United Association Local’s apprenticeship training program, 92.9 percent of participants reported having had a mentor. Although data were not collected based on a participant’s position in the trade (whether they were a journeyman or an apprentice), these seminars are typically attended by journeymen. As the administration of the survey was limited to a short time period, three separate survey forms were developed to assess 55 characteristics of superior, average, and poor mentors, respectively. Surveys were randomly distributed to participants at the beginning of the safety seminar, and each participant only received one version of the survey.

Measures The 55 characteristics used in the survey (listed in Table I) were derived from results of previous surveys measuring mentoring characteristics (both traditional and peer), core competencies of coaching, and emotional intelligence. The characteristics from traditional mentoring literature included in the present study were taken from the sole study that examined a manufacturing industry (Allen and Poteet, 1999). In total, 37 individual characteristics from Allen and Poteet’s study were included, in addition to nine characteristics from the coaching literature (Brotman et al., 1998), four characteristics from peer mentoring relationships (Kram and Isabella, 1985), and five characteristics measuring emotional intelligence (Law et al., 2004). Based on the differences between a construction mentor and a traditional mentor, there were a few characteristics that the authors of this study thought might be deemed more necessary to an effective construction mentor than a traditional mentor. For example, “possesses trade knowledge” was included because experience and skill play a very large part in the quality of the jobs that are done in the construction industry. In addition, because many tasks are assigned regularly during any particular workday, construction workers could desire a characteristic that taps into the ability of the mentor to communicate quickly and effectively. Therefore, “communicates clearly” was included as a characteristic on the survey. Participants were asked to take the perspective of mentees and think of mentors they have had in the past in their construction trades. Then, they were asked to consider past experiences with mentors and rate each of the 55 characteristics based on the extent to which it was characteristic of a superior, an average, or a poor mentor. We considered this sample qualified to complete the above task based on their extensive work experience and exposure to mentors. Responses were made on a five-point scale that ranged from 1 (not characteristic) to 5 (characteristic). Participants were also asked if they had any experience with people who they would consider as mentors, and then rate on a 5-point scale from 1 (very dissatisfied) to 5 (very satisfied) on how satisfied they were with their overall mentoring experience. Results First, preliminary analyses were conducted to ensure that the three groups of raters were comparable on various demographic and background characteristics. A series of one-way ANOVA tests revealed no significant mean differences between the three groups of raters in age, years in trade, years in the union, and length of time attending the apprentice program. Furthermore, we examined if the distributions of gender, ethnicity, working area (construction, service, or both), and whether respondents had any experience with people who they would consider as mentors are different among the three groups based on a series of Chi-squared tests. No significant results were found between these demographic and background characteristics across the three groups. Prior to examining the similarity of the 55 characteristic ratings among the three groups, homogeneity of group ratings was assessed using rwg( j) ( James et al., 1993). The rwg( j) coefficient indicates the agreement among respondents within each group and can be used to gauge the degree of “interchangeability” of respondents’ ratings (James et al., 1993). The results for the rwg( j) coefficients suggested high inter-rater within-group agreement, ranging from 0.91 to 0.99, with an average of 0.96. To

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Table I. Means and standard deviations of characteristics of superior, average, and poor mentors

Communicates Listens Patient Possesses trade knowledge Reads others’ needs Understands others Honest Builds trust Enjoys work People oriented Gives guidance and direction Has a vision Explains to understand Confident Open to suggestions Shares positive information Shares negative information Shares knowledge Is an effective leader Allows apprentice to make mistakes Willing to intervene with an apprentice Flexible Possesses a variety of skills Has respect for others Gives challenges and goals Able to teach Gives negative feedback Fair Objective Willing to learn new skills Motivates people Follows-through Stern Is a high quality informer Dependable Has a good memory Understands own emotions Expresses emotions Perceives emotions Able to recover from emotions Provides constructive activities Shares common values Provides emotional support Is a role model Has concern for human beings Compassionate Creative Approachable

Superior mentora M SD 4.36 4.36 4.29 4.54 3.95 4.11 4.47 4.44 4.33 4.05 4.55 3.94 4.38 4.29 4.21 4.38 4.00 4.62 4.33 4.09 4.30 3.76 4.09 4.26 4.24 4.27 4.08 4.26 4.15 4.40 4.23 4.33 3.48 4.21 4.59 4.00 3.64 3.48 3.68 3.77 3.82 3.92 3.77 4.19 3.94 3.77 4.06 4.23

0.78 0.85 0.84 0.94 0.83 0.90 0.86 0.83 0.92 0.97 0.77 1.14 0.76 0.89 0.83 0.82 1.02 0.74 0.90 0.91 0.80 0.93 0.94 0.79 0.80 0.89 0.88 0.79 0.95 0.79 0.96 0.81 1.06 0.83 0.70 0.93 0.97 1.03 1.04 1.05 0.89 0.87 0.87 0.96 1.04 1.01 0.73 0.85

Average mentorb M SD 4.06 4.00 3.84 4.33 3.49 3.76 4.14 4.06 4.16 3.61 3.92 3.86 3.98 4.16 3.80 4.24 3.98 4.33 3.91 3.61 4.00 3.73 3.96 4.21 4.02 4.12 4.04 4.02 3.88 3.88 3.92 4.08 3.69 4.16 4.27 3.69 3.60 3.39 3.43 3.52 3.61 3.82 3.61 3.98 3.77 3.63 3.94 3.90

0.99 0.92 0.92 0.85 0.96 0.99 0.87 0.91 0.94 0.98 0.95 0.94 0.97 0.92 1.12 0.85 0.92 0.83 0.90 1.22 0.97 0.81 0.98 0.77 0.80 0.83 0.91 0.80 0.86 0.91 0.84 0.79 0.93 0.87 0.81 1.00 0.79 1.00 1.04 1.13 1.00 0.83 0.93 0.88 0.93 0.93 0.90 0.87

Poor mentorc M SD 2.31 1.44 2.35 1.54 2.33 1.40 2.39 1.38 2.49 1.37 2.51 1.37 2.44 1.36 2.36 1.32 2.51 1.32 2.39 1.22 2.25 1.43 2.47 1.21 2.31 1.33 2.38 1.31 2.16 1.41 2.25 1.43 2.76 1.43 2.42 1.50 2.40 1.34 2.71 1.41 2.33 1.35 2.40 1.29 2.55 1.21 2.24 1.30 2.44 1.20 2.24 1.37 2.53 1.43 2.27 1.34 2.33 1.35 2.33 1.38 2.27 1.25 2.33 1.31 2.89 1.03 2.50 1.24 2.38 1.37 2.69 1.20 2.31 1.07 2.52 1.08 2.38 1.19 2.36 1.13 2.40 1.16 2.25 1.21 2.51 1.09 2.43 1.35 2.38 1.21 2.38 1.11 2.51 1.34 2.21 1.36 (continued)

Characteristic Intellectual Comfortable around superiors Has a customer focus Interpersonally savvy Refrains from contradictory statements Is appropriate in a crisis Has integrity

Superior mentora M SD 3.78 3.86 3.85 3.78 4.05 4.32 4.58

0.96 1.05 1.03 0.98 0.80 0.87 0.73

Average mentorb M SD 3.76 3.96 3.84 3.64 3.65 4.10 4.29

0.85 0.91 0.77 0.85 0.90 0.87 0.84

Poor mentorc M SD 2.55 2.53 2.62 2.39 2.42 2.32 2.23

1.15 1.38 1.24 1.15 1.29 1.36 1.40

Notes: an=64-66; bn=47-49; cn=51-53

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Table I.

examine the degree of correspondence between ratings of the different groups, we followed the procedure outlined by Dearmond et al. (2006) and calculated intraclass (ICCs) and Pearson correlation coefficients on mean ratings of the 55 characteristics. As shown in Table II, characteristics of average and superior mentors were rated similarly. However, characteristics of poor mentors were viewed quite differently from those of average and superior mentors. Results from a one-way MANOVA revealed significant mean differences in ratings of the 55 mentor characteristics between poor, average, and superior mentors as indicated by a Wilks’ lambda of 0.19, Fð110; 164Þ ¼ 1:98;p , .05, partial ? 2 ¼ 0:57:Univariate analyses further demonstrated that there were significant mean differences among the three groups (i.e. poor, average, and superior mentors) on all 55 characteristics. The significance level was adjusted to 0.001, based on the Bonferroni correction (Abdi, 2007). Mean and standard deviations of each of the characteristics of the three groups are presented in Table I. Post-hoc comparisons based on Tukey’s Honestly Significant Difference test showed that 53 of the 55 characteristics were rated significantly differently between poor and average mentors, as well as poor and superior mentors. The characteristic “expresses emotions” was not rated significantly differently between poor and average mentors, and the characteristic “stern” was not rated significantly differently between poor and average or poor and superior mentors. In addition, none of the characteristics were rated significantly differently between average and superior mentors. To identify the most important characteristics for mentors in the construction industry, we relied on three criteria (summarized in Table III):

1 1. Characteristics of poor mentors 2. Characteristics of average mentors 3. Characteristics of superior mentors

— 20.27 * 20.49 *

2 a

0 — 0.82 *

3 a

0 0.89 * —

Note: Correlations above the diagonal are intraclass correlations, and correlations below the diagonal are Pearson correlations; aThe intraclass correlation was set to 0 because of a negative value; * p , 0.05, two-tailed

Table II. Rating similarity among three groups based on Pearson and intraclass correlations

1. Shares knowledgeb 2. Dependable 3. Has integrity 4. Gives guidance and directionc 5. Possesses trade knowledgeb 6. Honest 7. Builds trustc 8. Willing to learn new skillsc 9. Explains to understandb 10. Shares positive informationc

1. Possesses a variety of skills 2. Possesses trade knowledgeb 3. Shares positive informationc 4. Willing to learn new skillsc 5. Builds trustc 6. Shares knowledgeb 7. Gives guidance and directionc 8. Gives negative feedbackc 9. Is an effective leader 10. Gives challenges and goals

0.50 0.46 0.44 0.39 0.38 0.36 0.35 0.34 0.29 0.28

Correlation with satisfaction (r)a

Notes: aAll correlation coefficients are significant at p , 0.05; bCharacteristics were identified by all three criteria; cCharacteristics were shared by at least two criteria

1.25 1.24 1.23 1.19 1.19 1.18 1.18 1.18 1.17 1.17

Effect size (Cohen’s d) Ranked characteristics


1. Listens 2. Shares negative information 3. Comfortable around superiors 4. Allows apprentice to make mistakes 5. Gives negative feedbackc 6. Shares knowledgeb 7. Possesses trade knowledgeb 8. Has a vision 9. Is a role model 10. Objective

4.62 4.59 4.58 4.55 4.54 4.47 4.44 4.40 4.38 4.38

Ranked characteristics

Table III. Top 10 characteristics identified based on three criteria Average rating (M) Ranked characteristics

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(1) means of characteristic ratings of a superior mentor; (2) effect sizes (i.e. Cohen’s d ) of mean differences between ratings of poor and superior mentors; and (3) correlations between characteristic ratings of superior mentors and satisfaction with mentors.

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Ranking of the characteristics following the above criteria produced three separate and somewhat different lists of the ten most important mentor characteristics (see Table III). While only two attributes (“possesses knowledge of the trade” and “shares knowledge”) were consistently included in the top ten list based on all three criteria, five other characteristics were identified based on two of the three criteria (“gives guidance and direction,” “builds trust,” learns new skills,” “shares positive information,” and “gives negative feedback”). The ranking most aligned with the purposes of this study is the ranking based on Cohen’s d, as it identifies those characteristics which best distinguish effective from ineffective mentors; however, the third criterion could prove useful for future researchers attempting to identify the characteristics of a mentor that influence the satisfaction with that mentor. Based on the Cohen’s d ranking, the top ten characteristics were: (1) good listener; (2) willing to share negative information; (3) comfortable around superiors; (4) allows an apprentice to make a mistake; (5) willing to give negative feedback; (6) willing to share knowledge; (7) possesses trade knowledge; (8) has a vision; (9) is a role model; and (10) is objective.


Discussion Although mentoring is a key component in construction work (Rogers, 2007), research on mentoring characteristics has traditionally focused on white-collar workers (e.g. Allen and Poteet, 1999; Smith et al., 2005). The current study was a first attempt to extend prior research by focusing on the essential characteristics of effective mentors in the construction industry. As such, our findings contribute to the understanding of what constitutes a good mentor in construction work. In order to identify which characteristics best distinguished superior from poor mentors, we ranked the 55 characteristics based on the standardized difference between the mean ratings of superior and poor mentors. Table III provides interesting findings regarding the characteristics and criteria used for establishing them. First, the original proposition suggesting that “possesses trade knowledge” would be identified as a desirable characteristic of an effective construction mentor was supported through these results, as this characteristic was identified by all three criteria. However, “communicates clearly” was not identified in any of the three criteria listings.

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It is also important to note that “shares knowledge” was the other characteristic identified based on all three criteria. While five characteristics in Table III were chosen by two of the criteria, four out of these five were derived from the first and third criteria, while the second criteria only identified one characteristic that was also identified by the third criteria. It appears that while there were a few characteristics shared by the criteria, each method of identifying desirable characteristics of a superior mentor resulted in a slightly different list. Overall, based on the ranking of the effect size criterion, the top ten characteristics were ranked somewhat differently than characteristics in past research. For example, being a good listener was the most important, which is similar to the characteristics reported by mentors in Allen and Poteet’s (1999) work. Different from past research, the second, fourth and fifth characteristics on the list were sharing negative information, allowing an apprentice to make a mistake, and willing to give negative feedback, respectively, all of which highlight the focus in this industry on correcting and learning from mistakes. Furthermore, when mean characteristic ratings of superior mentors and their correlations with satisfaction with mentor were also considered as criteria to assess importance, “possesses trade knowledge” and “shares knowledge” emerged as key attributes of superior mentors based on all three criteria. This ties into the importance of giving feedback seen in the high rankings of the Cohen’s d criteria. The construction industry relies on specific knowledge of how to accomplish important and dangerous tasks, and it seems logical that a good mentor would not only possess this knowledge but also share it with his or her prote´ge´s. Limitations and directions for future research Although this article presents important findings regarding mentor characteristics in the construction industry, there are some limitations that should be noted. First, this study relies on a convenience sample of union plumbers, pipe-fitters and steamfitters in the United States, which limits the generalization of the current results to other construction trades or blue-collar industries in the United States and abroad. In addition, survey respondents were not asked whether they were mentors or prote´ge´s (or both), and there could have been differences in responses depending on the view that the individual took. While these are limitations of our study, our findings were largely consistent with studies of mentor characteristics in white-collar industries, which provide some confidence in the generalizability of our results. It may also be possible that the meaning of a good mentor differs across countries and cultures. Future studies should extend this line of research to different blue-collar populations within and outside the construction industry, as well as internationally. Another limitation of this study is that our survey relied on a specific set of mentor characteristics, which were identified from studies with primarily white-collar employees and were selected with respect to relevance for the construction industry. However, as noted by an anonymous reviewer, considering the lack of research on mentor characteristics in construction and the distinct nature of construction work, a qualitative or phenomenological approach may prove useful in augmenting this line of research.

In addition, while the present study focused on the characteristics that contribute to being an effective mentor in the construction industry, there are characteristics that could contribute to poor or “marginal” mentoring (Ragins et al., 2000), which could lead to negative experiences and outcomes for the prote´ge´s (Scandura, 1998; Feldman, 1999). Although research has begun to identify negative mentor characteristics, such as being overly critical, demanding, and manipulative (e.g. Eby et al., 2000; Levinson et al., 1978), more research is needed in this area, including in the construction industry. Besides simply good or bad mentors, some mentors may be “marginal,” in that they may disappoint their prote´ge´s and may or may not meet some or even most of their developmental needs. Prote´ge´s with marginal mentors tend to show the same experiences as those with no mentoring experience (Ragins et al., 2000). Future researchers could examine the differences between “marginal” mentors and “poor” mentors, and related outcomes in the construction industry. It is also interesting to note that some of the important mentor characteristics identified in this study are conceptually similar to the Big Five personality factors (i.e. neuroticism, extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness, and conscientiousness; Norman, 1963). It would be an interesting research direction to examine the potential relationship between the Big 5 and an effective mentor. If the characteristics of an effective mentor can be divided into the facets of the Big 5, journeymen and foremen could be given this personality test in order to identify those individuals that have the desired characteristics of mentors and provide them with guidance and training on becoming a mentor. Another area for expansion lies in the outcomes associated with mentoring. Although much research has examined the potential outcomes of effective mentoring relationships (e.g. Allen and Poteet, 1999; Chao et al., 1992; Wilson and Johnson, 2001), the unique nature of construction work should not be overlooked. Construction workers face a hazardous working environment daily with a higher probability of injury than other industries. Thus, it is possible that a mentoring relationship in the construction industry could provide a unique function on injury and illness prevention that has not yet been considered, as mentors would likely play an important role in promoting workplace health and safety. Furthermore, it is possible that specific characteristics of mentors could promote (or demote) safety in the workplace. Future research within the construction industry should expand traditional mentoring functions to incorporate occupational health and safety functions. More specifically, future research could examine how the characteristics identified in the present study can lead to desirable safety-related outcomes. Conclusion Notwithstanding these limitations, the results from the current study indicate that communication skills, knowledge sharing, and correcting mistakes/giving negative feedback are important for an effective mentor in the construction industry. The results from this study can be used to augment current mentoring research and provide a starting point for mentor-assisted development in construction. References Abdi, H. (2007), “Bonferroni and Sidak corrections for multiple comparisons”, in Salkind, N.J. (Ed.), Encyclopedia for Measurement and Statistics, Sage, Thousand Oaks, CA.

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