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

Publication Date



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.

Document Type



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


Organizational Behavior and Theory


SMU Cox: Management & Organizations (Topic)