Compartmentalizing Feelings: Examining the Role of Workplace Emotions in the Mentoring Experiences of Underrepresented Women Faculty

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Mentoring is a fundamental organizational process that people enact through communication: one that relies on emotion to maintain the professional relationship. This article explores underrepresented women faculty members’ mentoring relationships and corresponding emotions in a College of Engineering (CoE) at a large Midwestern university. Based on in-depth interviews with female engineering faculty members, the case study demonstrates how emotions underscore women’s mentoring experiences in academe. Their personal stories demonstrate how the development of mentoring relationships is compartmentalized (emotions and containment) and simultaneously built on trust (emotions and integration). Stories also illustrate how these women see the mentoring processes, emotions, and reproduction of traditional mentoring system as facilitating their professional growth. Our findings contribute to better understanding women’s mentoring in academe and the communicative constructions of mentorship, emotions, and resilience. From the women’s narratives of their everyday mentoring experiences, we draw theoretical implications concerning the restriction and expansion of emotional boundaries in professional mentoring relationships and provide pragmatic recommendations for improving academic mentoring practices.

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Electronic Journal of Communication, v. 25, issues 3-4