September 25, 2012, 11:40 AM — Mentorships aren't meant to last forever. Their purpose is to help junior employees establish goals and move forward in their career paths. Once the objective has been reached, the relationship usually lapses. But sometimes mentorships should be ended before the mentee's goals have been reached. The mentee may feel that the relationship has gone off course and that his needs aren't being met. When that happens, how do you end the relationship with class and grace? Below are some tips.
Choosing the date
Don't abruptly end the mentor relationship or expect it to fizzle out on its own. That's not fair to your mentor. Once you've decided that the relationship has run its course, choose an end date and plan to meet with your mentor at least one last time. Remember that your professional reputation is at stake, and the way you end the mentoring reputation can impact your career. Tell your mentor that your next meeting will be your last, so he or she can prepare for it.
Planning the conversation
Prepare for your last mentor meeting ahead of time. If you think nerves may affect you, write down your speaking points before the meeting. You'll want to address several points in this "break-up" conversation.
Start with the good
Begin the conversation by thanking your mentor for his or her time and efforts. Talk about all the highlights of the mentorship, such as meeting or exceeding goals. Give your mentor a compliment about his or her mentoring style, such as always making time for you, having great strategic ideas or speaking with candidness.
Communicate your reason for ending things
Tell your mentor exactly why you are ending the relationship. For mentees who have accomplished their goals early, this will be an easy task. Mentees who are ending their relationships because of a poor personality fit, lack of communication or other problems may find it difficult to tell their mentors the truth. But this can be done in a diplomatic manner. For example, if you are ending things because your mentor is never available, you could say, "I'm afraid our schedules are just not compatible, though the time we've spent together has been very valuable to me." If you are ending things because your personality is not a fit with your mentor's, you could say, "I've had time to reflect on my own communication style, and I think I need a mentor who has a similar approach."
Give your mentor honest feedback