The Hidden Work of Mentoring: Impression Management and Emotional Labor Among Undergraduate Faculty Mentors

Elizabeth Patricia Sheprow, Bucknell University


The present study employed a qualitative research design in order to examine the work performed by exemplar undergraduate mentors in their formation and maintenance of student-faculty mentoring relationships. Analysis of ten semi-structured, in-person interviews revealed that exemplar mentors engage in two broad forms of work: (1) impression work, or self-presentation attempts to appear approachable, open, and honest; and (2) emotional labor, or the management of individual emotions (Hochschild, 1983), protégé emotions, and shared emotions which arise out of the didactic relationship. In the category of emotional labor, the extent of emotional support mentors provided to protégés was found to vary, and the present study proposes that this support be conceptualized on a continuum, with little to no provision of psychosocial support on one end, and extensive provision of psychosocial support on the other end. Terminology for two conceptual categories of emotional support is presented--emotion-integrated support and emotion-laden support. The nuances between these two categories of emotional support are discussed, and the implications of mentor engagement in impression work and emotional labor are examined.