Mentoring Breakups and How to Handle Them

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Sometimes, mentors and mentees need to go their separate ways.

As we’ve mentioned before, this is totally normal—it in no way reflects your ability as a mentor, mentee, or Program Coordinator!

When this inevitably happens, here’s how to spot it as a mentor and mentee, how to deal with it when the time has come to go your separate ways, and how a Program Coordinator can offer support.

General Signs It’s Time To Break Up

It’s probably time to call it quits if you’re regularly having unproductive meetings, or there are simply too many cancellations or rescheduling happening. 

Don’t take this personally—it could simply be a fundamental difference in personalities or some other basic incompatibility that has nothing to do with you specifically!

Here are some it’s-time-to-split signs to look out for if you’re a mentee or mentor.

Signs You Should Move On From Your Mentor

If you’re a mentee and wondering if it’s time to move on from your mentor, here are some signs you should look for:

  • You’re not learning anymore: You feel like you’ve hit your learning ceiling with this mentor, and it would serve you to continue your journey with someone else. 
  • You feel like you’re not allowed to fail: Mentoring should be about learning from failures as much as from successes; if you sense your mentor is regularly disappointed with you when you don’t meet their expectations, it may be time for a switch.
  • You feel rushed: You need to do things in your own time, with some nudges here and there. But if you feel like your mentor is putting strict time restraints or deadlines on you, they might not be the best person for you.

Knowing your mentor might not be right for you anymore doesn’t necessarily mean the relationship has to end completely; you can always stay in touch in a less formal capacity going forward.

Signs You Should Move On From Your Mentee

On the other hand, mentors may think it’s time for them and their mentees to go their separate ways if:

  • Your mentee becomes too dependent: Your mentee can’t seem to make a move without your approval; this is a sign they’re becoming too dependent on you and that it may be time to move on.
  • Your mentee doesn’t follow through: For all the excellent tips and advice you’ve given, your mentee can’t seem to get it into gear and take action. If there’s simply no follow-through, your hard-won advice may be better suited for someone else.
  • You feel you’re no longer the right mentor for where they are in their career/life: Maybe you’ve had a great mentoring relationship up to this point, but you’ve taken them as far as you can and think it’s time for someone else to guide them on the next leg of their journey.

So, now that you know it’s time to part, how exactly should you go about it?

How To Break Up With Your Mentoring Partner Amicably

Here are some suggestions for gently breaking the news to your mentoring partner:

  • Say thank you for their time and effort: Gratitude first; always. Demonstrate that you do genuinely appreciate the time and effort your mentoring partner has dedicated to you and your journey.
  • Be honest with your reasons: Be honest but also gentle; give your honest reasons for moving on and why you think you’ll both be better off.

Express that your specific pairing might not be a good match…but that you’re confident they’ll be a great mentor/mentee for someone more compatible.

How Program Coordinators Can Offer Support

As a Program Coordinator, it’s important to offer support during this time. Let the mentoring partners know that mentoring breakups aren’t necessarily bad; in fact, they can even be a sign of growth.

Help them end the relationship as amicably as possible, and then provide support in pairing them up with a different match. You can do this by asking questions like:

  • Do they need to update their profiles?
  • Should you consider certain aspects (personality, seniority, area of expertise) when re-matching them?

This will help ensure they’re less likely to be paired up with someone they’re incompatible with again.

The Takeaway

Not all mentoring relationships are meant to be for life, but when you do find the right pairing, you’ll want to do whatever you can to make it work. Download our 10 Key Qualities and Habits of Highly Effective Mentors now to ensure you’re ready for when lightning strikes.

Download our eBook for free!

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Grace Winstanely
Grace Winstanely
Grace is the Senior Marketing Manager at Mentorloop. She is dedicated to making content that helps make mentoring more accessible to all and helping Program Coordinators deliver the best mentoring experience for their participants. She's also a keen cook, amateur wine connoisseur, sports fanatic, and lover of all things tropical.

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