How to end a mentoring relationship

Posted on August 30, 2017 - 3:07 pm



Much like any other type of relationship, from professional partnerships to high school romances, there will be times when a relationship between a mentor and mentee must come to a close. And, much like any other type of relationship, those endings have the potential to be messy or hurtful if they aren’t handled with care.

“Closure to a formal mentoring relationship is important,” says Kerry Woodland, Director of Service Delivery at Boys and Girls Clubs / Big Brothers Big Sisters of Edmonton. Kerry has spent over 20 years cultivating supportive mentorships and while her expertise is focused on youth, her insights translate directly to MentorCity connections. “But how the closure is handled is important to not negate any of the benefits that the mentoring relationship had for both mentor and mentee over the time they were together.”

While most mentoring relationships have an anticipated end, any number of external elements can alter the course of a mentoring relationship, from a geographic move or new professional opportunity to an illness or family crisis. External influences aside, a mentoring relationship may come to an end simply because of a mismatch on an interpersonal level, or a miscommunication between mentor and mentee. Not everyone is a good fit and, Kerry says, that’s okay.

“The hardest closures are the ones where there is no conversation or communication about why,” says Kerry, adding it is key to keep the lines of honest communication wide open from start to finish.

Ideally, the ending of a mentoring relationship is anticipated and even planned for by agreeing to a timeline in advance. Have a well-defined closing moment in mind, but also acknowledge the possibility that the relationship could end sooner than initially planned. Those early conversations go a long way toward normalizing the eventual closure.

Even in cases of incompatibility or any other type of unanticipated closure, it’s helpful to plan a moment of reflection or even celebration at the close of the mentoring relationship. Find value in the learning and growth, reflect on the experience, and ensure that both of you are comfortable with the change in the relationship.

The most important thing is not to make promises you don’t intend to keep. Doing so can lead to significant disappointment, especially if it’s a mentor who fails to keep in touch after promising to do so. There is comfort in the simple honesty of just closing and ending the relationship.

Remember, while the ending might bring some feelings of sadness, it doesn’t undo all the learning and positives that came out of the time spent together. Some people simply come into your life for a very specific reason or a short period of time. “Relationships don’t have to be lifelong, nor is that realistic.” 

Media: Download Media

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