Ambivalence in Mentorship : An Exploration of Emotional Complexities book cover
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Ambivalence in Mentorship
An Exploration of Emotional Complexities

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Book Description

Ambivalence in Mentorship is based on research of scores of mentors and protégés in longstanding relationships representing a range of career fields. Using vivid case narratives, the book takes a nuanced look at the emotional complexities of their mentorships—the intense passions and hopes that get stirred up in these professional, yet intimate connections as well as the turmoil created by disappointment, betrayal, competition, and the mere readiness to move on and separate from these relationships.

Framing the psychodynamics of mentorship dialectically, the book unpacks the relational struggles in mentorship to trace how these emerge from strong emotional bonds. This is accomplished by delineating and illustrating three modes of the ambivalent attachment between mentor and protégé: idealization, loyalty, and generativity. Pushing at the boundaries of research on the topic, Ambivalence in Mentorship locates this relationship at the crosshairs of authority and love—highlighting the interplay of intrapsychic, interpersonal, cultural, and historical forces that drive this relationship to be at once vital and risky. Professionals in the social sciences, business, and management fields will find that the book offers a fresh perspective and authentic voice to the very real joys and complicated feelings that attend mentorship.

Table of Contents


About the Author



Chapter I: Bonds that Bind: Introduction to Ambivalence in Mentorship

Framing ambivalence

Mentorship stories

Outline of the book


Chapter 2: Defining the Elusive: Ambiguous Expectations in Mentorship

Mentoring craze


The "M" word

Academic splitting

A working conception


Chapter 3: Walking on Water with Feet of Clay: Idealization in Mentorship

Perfection, omnipotence, magic

The ego ideal

Illusion, enactment, reality


Defensive reactions

Case vignette: When idealization leads to a give-up response in the protégé


The fall


Context matters

Final thoughts


Chapter 4: A Sticky Subject: Loyalty in Mentorship

Parallel process

Asymmetrical reciprocity

Exclusivity by exclusion

Emotion, calculation, duty

Ritualized enactment

Emotion work


Case vignette: Loyalty intensifies as mentor and protégé bond in opposition to a third party

Final thoughts

Chapter 5: The Anxieties of Influence: Generativity in Mentorship


Generative objects





Case vignettes: Generativity difficulties when a mentor over- or under- identifies with a protégé

Control and agency

Generative enactments



Final thoughts

Chapter 6: For the Future of Mentorship

Crafted or produced


Limits and possibilities

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Bonnie D. Oglensky, Ph.D., is a psychoanalytically-oriented sociologist, professor, and Academic Director of the Sociology and Human Relations Programs at The City University of New York, School of Professional Studies (USA). Her commitment to exploring the socio-emotional complexities of professional life has led to research and publication of well-received books and articles including The Part Time Paradox: Time Norms., Professional Life, Family and Gender co-authored with C.F. Epstein, C. Seron, and R. Saute (Routledge). Prior to academia, Dr. Oglensky served on the executive team of Project Liberty—New York City's emergency mental health response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks and practiced as a clinical social worker.


"This is destined to become the reference book on mentoring. It offers a deep understanding of the experiences of mentors and their protégés, and an equally deep understanding of emotional ambivalence at work. Oglensky’s study interweaves insights from politics, symbolism and emotions to account for the unique kaleidoscope of interpersonal relations present in today’s workplaces." -- Yiannis Gabriel, Professor of Organizational Theory, University of Bath, UK

"We all know that mentors change the lives of the people they mentor. What we may not always know is that these protégés return the favor. Given the complexity of these relationships, anyone who wants to better understand this intricate interface would be wise to read Bonnie Oglensky’s Ambivalence in Mentorship. Unlike many other contributions within this domain, this book gives the reader a real in-depth understanding of what’s taking place under the surface." -- Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries, Distinguished Clinical Professor of Leadership Development and Organizational Change, INSEAD, France, Singapore and Abu Dhabi

"What’s the power dynamic between the mentor and the mentored? Who depends upon whom? At one point does mentoring end and projection begin? Twenty-five years ago, I was mentored by a powerful, imposing, but ultimately loving teacher. Looking back, I see that he didn’t know everything, he wasn’t always right, although I believed he was. Bonnie Oglensky is wise to ask us to acknowledge the complexity of mentorship. No doubt many who have been mentors or mentored will benefit from her insights." -- Tom Grimes, author of Mentor: A Memoir, 2011 PEN USA finalist for Best Work of Nonfiction