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Planning the Exit: Knowing When It's Time to End a Mentorship

As with any relationship, finding a business mentor can be a gratifying and mutually beneficial experience. But if the relationship is not going as expected, and you are not gaining the expertise and guidance from the relationship that you hoped for, then it might be time to move on.

An important part of developing a successful mentoring relationship is being able to recognize when it isn’t working or when it is no longer necessary. Read on to learn how to identify the signs of a declining mentorship and when it’s time to end it.


One of the biggest challenges in a mentoring program is ending the relationship, because it may lead to surprise or resentment. But you must put these worries aside and remember that this is your career; you must keep moving forward. A clear-cut sign that it is time to end the relationship is when mentors/mentees feel that they have achieved their goals. In this case, there should be no concerns about hurt feelings or discomfort. Both parties have achieved what they set out to do, and both should feel rewarded for a successful mentorship. Likewise, if a lot of effort is being put into a mentorship that neither the mentor nor the mentee feel is going anywhere, then it is also time to move on, and there should be no hurt feelings as a result. Ultimately, a mentor/mentee relationship is a business relationship, with goals and expectations. If those expectations aren’t being met, then both parties are better off ending the relationship and seeking a program that fits. 


One of the goals of a successful mentor/mentee program is to provide a mutual learning experience. Throughout the course of the program, participants should be proactive and evaluate the relationship on a regular basis. At these intervals, both the mentor and mentee should be able to identify what they’ve learned, how they’ve grown, and what goals they’ve achieved. If regular evaluations do not yield positive results, or if they aren’t being conducted at all, then that is a sign the relationship isn’t working. Perceptions are important, and they can be developed early on. If either the mentor or mentee perceives that sufficient effort and dedication is not being put forth, the relationship will inevitably fail. Recognize the signs early on and don’t be afraid to pull the plug if the time is right.  


In a successful mentor/mentee relationship, regular communication is key. Participants should make a point to stay in touch, if only through occasional emails. Face-to-face interaction is important too, as it cultivates trust and sustains momentum. If one party is avoiding the other, either by declining invitations to meet or not responding to communications, this is a sign that something is amiss. You can try to reopen the lines of communication, but once trust is lost, it is very hard to gain it back. Both a mentor and mentee need to know that all parties are invested in the success of the relationship, and if they constantly have to struggle over communication, then it is time to move on.

If you do decide to end your mentorship, try not to do it abruptly. Give as early notice as possible, and always end the relationship in person. More often than not, both parties are already aware that the mentorship is failing or has run its course, so there really shouldn’t be any surprises. Be polite and courteous, and be sure to thank them for their time. When done right, ending a mentorship program can be the final step in ensuring a successful mentorship relationship.

Succeed in mentoring with MentorCloud

Struggling with a declining mentorship? Contact MentorCloud to gain more insight on how to recognize the signs and what steps you should take towards moving forward.

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