Ending a Mentor Relationship Without Negative Impact

Ending a mentor relationship might feel like a break-up. Things change and pull you away, but you do not want to hurt their feelings. Saying goodbye to a mentor does not have to end in drama. Networks are key to professional development and advancement, especially as you will likely run into your mentor again. So, prolonging a failing relationship does not benefit you or the mentor.

There are various red flags and reasons people conclude their mentor relationship. How you bow out depends on your situation. Consider where your mentor/mentee relationship is now and what relationship you want in the future. Then, you can decide which of the following way to end the relationship fits your needs.

Schedule an end date

Mentor programs tend to have a preselected end date. If you are someone who thrives better with structure, consider choosing an end date when you start. However, not everyone knows when they want to leave their mentor. One way of concluding the relationship is by discussing an amicable time. 

For instance, if you are both mothers, December fills up with concerts, sports matches, exams, holidays, and more. You both can not commit the same amount of time, so it is a natural reason to end the relationship, despite any other issues you might have had. Choosing an end date you both agree upon will not upset anyone and opens the possibility of resuming the relationship in the future.  

Set a goal

Perhaps your mentor is an expert in a specific field, but it is not the only skill you want. It is common to have multiple mentors and be at various stages with each. Setting a goal can be a way to end the relationship. You can establish the length of the mentorship dependent on when you receive a certification, degree, or technical proficiency. Mentees gain valuable personal experience and results from their efforts. Plus, mentors feel fulfilled in supporting someone’s achievements.

Re-evaluate expectations

Miscommunication can be a vital factor when leaving a mentor. The mentor might expect you to have taken all of their advice or learn more independently. Vice Versa, you might want more learning opportunities or feel you could meet more frequently. Open and constant communication about your expectations for the mentor/mentee ensures a beneficial relationship. It also provides a second chance. Try phrasing the discussion as “I would like to do ____” over “you are not doing ____.”

Emphasis on gratitude

When concluding a mentor/mentee relationship, focusing on the positives can avoid burning bridges. Let the mentor know all the skills and knowledge you learned from them and how it helps your career development. By focusing on your growth and needs, the mentor will not feel they failed you or received accusations.

Be honest

You can highly respect an individual, but their mentor style could not be the right fit for you. Stay true to your desires and needs. Sometimes being upfront is the most efficient way to avoid prolonging a relationship. Concentrate on the benefits from the separation and not the lack of ability.

Keep the door open

You can still have a relationship that is not mentor/mentee. Mentors can become close friends over time. Decreasing the formality of your relationship is one way of letting the mentor side fade out amicably. You can always turn to them for advice or collaborate in the future. 

Want to know more about mentorship?

IAW is committed to helping professional women find the right mentor or mentee for them! Register for one of our many virtual and in-person events ranging from panel discussions to experienced speakers.

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