Section subject: Strategies for ending a mentoring relationship.


The ‘ending’ or exit point of a mentoring relationship is just as important as the other stages and a lot of thought needs to be given to the management of this process. Many theorists talk of transitions rather than endings, although a good mentoring programme will have built separation, or the process of ‘becoming a professional or peer’, into its ending phase.

Learning objectives

This section helps you to:

Approaches to ending the mentor - mentee relationship

The ending of a mentoring relationship can be approached in a variety of ways. The way in which the ending is approached will affect the outcomes of the relationship.

Ideally the ending is planned into the process and so does not come as a surprise to either participant. A less well-planned approach may result in problems. Many mentoring models talk about a transformation from the mentor/mentee relationship into a new form. The relationship doesn’t end as such but the nature of it changes.

Approaches to endings

Clutterbuck & Megginson (2003) outline the following approaches to the ending of relationships.

Psychodynamic ending – the relationship comes to an ending which one (or both) of the participants is not expecting. This can cause feelings of loss and disruption, which need to be acknowledged.

This type of ending may be seen to evoke older and unresolved difficulties which must either be worked through in the service of growth, or worked round in order to function reasonably in the future.

For example, the relationship may just ‘peter out’ or one party may decide that the relationship is not needed anymore. Abrupt endings are more likely to cause feelings of loss and disruption than planned endings although these may still have an affect on both parties.

Pragmatic ending – the duration of the relationship is planned into the process and the end date is known to all parties from an early stage. The mentoring scheme employs practices that either eliminate, or at least mitigate, the effects of any difficulties with endings that either person in the relationship might feel. Here, the professional basis of the scheme has anticipated separation, transition or change as part of the process and has built in ‘fail-safe’ mechanisms.

For example, the duration of the scheme is outlined at the start and key points in the process are established. How and when the relationship will end are discussed at the start when the objectives of the relationship are set.

Organisational ending – the end of the relationship is forced by external factors and not allowed to develop further. A change in circumstances may force a scheme to end sooner than expected or planned.

For example, the funding for a scheme might be removed suddenly. In the best case scenario the organisational factors will allow for an exit strategy to be planned into the cycle of current mentoring, otherwise feelings of loss and disruption might ensue from an abrupt closure.

Ending the mentoring relationship - a pragmatic approach

What ways do you think are best for ending, or transforming, the relationship between a mentee and mentor?

Consider how, when, and the purposes or reasons for ending. What would your ideal exit strategy be? You will need to think about both mentee and mentor roles and how they might be transformed.

Ending the mentoring relationship

Look back again at the two conversations between Harry and Sonia and Ayesha and Jay.
What, differences did you find between them?
Are there any issues still to work through in either relationship?
Which was most satisfactory and why?
Which was the least satisfactory and why?

Final word

As much thought needs to go into the end of a mentoring relationship as the beginning and the ongoing process. Keeping the end in sight at all times is important. It is also vital that the ‘end‘ is worked towards by both parties and that the ‘ending’ is celebrated in some way to achieve closure. The ending is a period of transformation, where a peer development network or something similar replaces the formal relationship.

For the mentee, it should be a parting that sets clear and continuing goals for further professional development. For the mentor, it should be a time to reflect and consider what they have learned from the exchange before starting the process again with a new mentee.

Nothing is ever perfect really. Nothing ever finished. Everything is process.
Gibson, W. (1999)

You might like to reflect on the issues arising from this section and make some notes for the future.

print - back to summary