Keen to Help? Managers' Implicit Person Theories and Their Subsequent Employee Coaching

Personnel Psychology, Vol. 59, pp. 871-902, 2006

32 Pages Posted: 25 Jun 2008

See all articles by Peter A. Heslin

Peter A. Heslin

UNSW Sydney

Don Vandewalle

Southern Methodist University (SMU) - Management and Organizations Department

Gary P. Latham

University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management

Date Written: June 22, 2008

Abstract

Although coaching can facilitate employee development and performance, the stark reality is that managers often differ substantially in their inclination to coach their subordinates. To address this issue, we draw from and build upon a body of social psychology research that finds that implicit person theories (IPTs) about the malleability of personal attributes (e.g., personality and ability) affect one's willingness to help others. Specifically, individuals holding an "entity theory" that human attributes are innate and unalterable are disinclined to invest in helping others to develop and improve, relative to individuals who hold the "incremental theory" that personal attributes can be developed. Three studies examined how managers' IPTs influence the extent of their employee coaching. First, a longitudinal field study found that managers' IPTs predicted employee evaluations of their subsequent employee coaching. This finding was replicated in a second field study. Third, an experimental study found that using self-persuasion principles to induce incremental IPTs increased entity theorist managers' willingness to coach a poor performing employee, as well as the quantity and quality of their performance improvement suggestions.

Keywords: Coaching, employee development, leadership, implicit theories, IPT, mindset

Suggested Citation

Heslin, Peter A. and Vandewalle, Don and Latham, Gary P., Keen to Help? Managers' Implicit Person Theories and Their Subsequent Employee Coaching (June 22, 2008). Personnel Psychology, Vol. 59, pp. 871-902, 2006. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1149624

Peter A. Heslin (Contact Author)

UNSW Sydney ( email )

UNSW Business School
High St
KENSINGTON, NSW 2052
Australia

Don Vandewalle

Southern Methodist University (SMU) - Management and Organizations Department ( email )

United States

Gary P. Latham

University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management ( email )

105 St. George Street
Toronto, Ontario M5S 3E6 M5S1S4
Canada
416-978-4916 (Phone)
416-978-4629 (Fax)

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