Context-specific effects on reciprocity in mentoring relationships: ethical implications

Feb. 15, 2008

Source: Mentoring and Tutoring: Partnership in Learning, Volume 16, Issue 1 February 2008, pages 17 - 29

Reciprocity is fundamental to effective mentoring relationships. However, we argue that it is inappropriate, and perhaps unethical, to expect comparable levels of reciprocity in all mentoring relationships. Instead, contextual factors influence optimal levels of reciprocity. Foremost is the developmental stage of the protégé, with less mature, relatively inexperienced protégés generally less capable of forming and maintaining a reciprocal relationship with their mentors than are more mature, relatively experienced protégés.

We discuss three examples of contextual variables that can affect appropriate levels of reciprocity - the academic research apprenticeship, gender, and culture - and argue that mentors' expectations of reciprocity necessarily must be adjusted in order to achieve ethical mentoring within these contexts.

Updated: Feb. 12, 2008