Types of Mentoring

Mentoring is often divided into two types (Buell, 2004):

continuumNote that this does not mean it is all black and white, rather it is more gray, such as a continuum with formal mentoring on one end and informal on the other end. For example, an organization may guide and oversee a mentoring program, in addition to providing learning opportunities to both the mentors, but may not assign the relationships.

A limitation on formal mentoring programs is the small number of mentoring relationships they can support and accommodate may lead to dissatisfaction with the relationship and negative feelings of those not involved with the program (DeSimone, Werner 2012). As far as the mentor and protégé relationship, Chao, Walz, and Gardner (1992) found that protégés in informal relationships received more career-related advice and had better career outcomes than formal programs, however, Tepper (1995) found no difference.

These two types of mentoring can further be divided into two forms:

In addition, mentoring programs can be internal, where it is developed and managed inside of the organization, or external (developed on the outside). And like other forms, it can also be a hybrid combination of the two.

Boomerang or Reverse Mentoring

Mentors often get as much out of the mentoring relationship as the protégés. For example, the mentor is giving advice to the protégé and it has a boomerang effect (Dickinson, Jankot, Gracon, 2009); thus, the act of expressing an idea gives the mentor an insight into a problem. Often the mere process of formally expressing a thought, concept, or idea gives the person a clearer vision, thus he or she comes away with a new understanding.

This also works the other way as the mentoring process is a two-way learning process—the protégé expresses a thought, idea, or concept and gives the mentor a new insight.

Next Steps

Mentoring Resources

Return to the Leadership Training and Development Outline


Buell, C. (2004). Models of Mentoring in Communication. Communication Education, 53(3),56-73.

Chao, G.T., Walz, P.M., Gardner, P.D. (1992). Formal and informal mentorships: A comparison on mentoring functions and contrast with nonmentored counterparts. Personnel Psychology, 45, 620-636.

DeSimone, R.L., Werner, J.M. (2012). Human Resource Development. Mason, OH: South-Western College Pub.

Dickinson, K., Jankot, T., Gracon, H. (2009). Sun Mentoring: 1996-2009. Sun Microsystems. Retrieved from http://research.sun.com/techrep/2009/smli_tr-2009-185.pdf

Tepper, B.J. (1995). Upward maintenance tactics in supervisory mentoring and nonmentoring relationships. Academy of Management Journal, 38, 1191-1205.