Mentored by a Child? - Impact of Age on Enactment of Supervisory-Career Mentoring in Young Supervisor-Older Subordinate Settings: A Case Study of the Finance and Accounting Departments at Mars Inc.
Abstract: This thesis examines the research question: How and to what extent are the Supervisory Career Mentoring functions enacted in young supervisor-older subordinate dyads? Supervisors who are younger than their subordinates are becoming more and more common in the corporate world. According to current theory on age within the field of Organizational Demography, this increasingly common setting may have a negative impact on the quality of the relationship. Given that supervisory mentoring is believed to make significant contributions to a number of factors, e.g. skills development, that are of interest to both academic research and organizational decision-makers, this thesis assesses the impact of age reversal on the enactment of Supervisory Career Mentoring (SCM). Enactment and its explanations are studied with an in-depth embedded case study in Finance and Accounting departments in Mars Inc. Europe. Firstly, the enactment of the five sub-functions of SCM identified in the literature is described. Thereafter, the impact of age on the enactment of these functions is outlined. This thesis finds that at first glance, all five SCM sub-functions are observable. But, they seem largely confined to formal settings and most are only partially performed. Additionally, it is shown that there appears to be a negative perception bias among mentoring supervisors of their older subordinate protégés. Further, there are indications of latent conflicts in the relationships. It is found that these are contained by mentoring supervisors engaging into a passive mentoring style and communicating in a way that helps to relate to their older protégés. The distance created by these coping mechanisms further explains the limited enactment of the SCM sub-functions.
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