When should I end the mentoring relationship?

mentoring relationshipIn a formal mentoring program, the program itself provides the time when the relationship needs to come to closure.  This is usually 9-12 months.  However, sometimes one or the other partner feels it's time to end before that period of time.  This may or may not mean it really is time to end as it could also mean that there is a problem in the relationship.  What are the signs and what do they mean?

  • "I am bored and uninterested when meeting with my partner."
  • "My mentee requires a lot of attention and work.  It's a chore whenever we meet!”
  • "I have run out of things to discuss with my mentor—I guess it's time to end the relationship?”
  • "We meet and have a good discussion but there is little follow through on the part of my partner."
  • "My mentor does most of the talking and I just listen.  I thought I was the person we're supposed to focus on."

If you've experienced any of these examples, you may decide it's time to end the relationship.  Whether you are a mentor or a mentoree, you certainly don't want to waste your time on an ineffective relationship.  On the other hand, this could be an opportunity to change the relationship significantly so that both of you are getting what you need from the relationship. This means having a conversation about expectations.  Here's how by changing the above statements into more positive and exploratory statements.

  • "I wonder if we can explore other topics to discuss as I'm not as excited about the areas we've been covering.  What do you think?”
  • "You know mentee, I feel like I've been too involved in managing our conversations, I really would like to discuss ways that you could be more in control during our sessions."
  • "I feel like I'm running out of areas to discuss.  I'm not sure if that means we have come to the end of our relationship or whether it means we should explore other areas we haven't discussed.  What are your thoughts about this?”
  • "Mentor, you've been sharing a lot of useful information but I'd like to switch gears a little.  The next time we meet I'd like to discuss X and begin by presenting you with my thoughts and proposed solutions and get your feedback. This will help me to be more proactive in our discussions."

My own personal feeling is if someone is willing to be my mentor, there's always something to discuss.

So if you find yourself feeling like it is time to end the mentoring relationship, ask yourself if it's really an opportunity to have a more meaningful relationship rather than put an end to it.


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Topics: Mentors & Mentorees, Mentoring Program Manager