Ways of Ending a Mentoring Relationship

by Barry Sweeny, 2003

INDEX:


The Ways the Mentoring Relationship Can End

There are a number of ways in which mentoring relationships come to an end, some good, some not so good. Here are some examples.

GOOD WAYS:

  • The mentor and protégé decide they have attained all their goals and the potential benefits of their relationship, and that they no longer need to meet as a formal mentoring pair. They inform the Mentor Program Leader of their conclusion and that leader has agreed with their assessment.
  • The prescribed duration of the mentoring program has been reached, and the mentor and protégé also decide they have attained all their goals. They inform the Mentor Program Leader.

BAD WAYS TO END IT

  • The mentor independently decides their mentoring is done and quits whether the protégé is ready to or not.
  • The protégé independently decides their mentoring is finished or no longer effective and helpful, and refuses to meet with the mentor anymore, whether the mentor or program agree or not.
  • The protégé discovers the mentor has been discussing issues about the protégé which were supposed to be kept confidential.  The mentor has said nothing to the protégé about this. The protégé independently decides their mentoring is over because of a loss of trust, and refuses to meet with the mentor anymore, even though the protégé still knows there is still a need for more mentoring.
  • The Mentor Program Leader or the program dictate the ending point for the relationship and force the ending, whether the protégé is ready to or not, or whether the mentor feeld the protege is ready or not.

The very best way to end a mentoring relationship is that the needs for which the relationship was started have been met and the goals created by the pair have ben attained. This is a “standards-based” approach which suggests that there is no set length for the relationship other than, as long as it takes to get there.

Whether this standards-based method is used, or one of the other “good” ways is what happens, appropriate closure is important for all involved in the pair, for the program, and for the organization. The result of mentoring should be what was intended, not something less.


Youth Mentoring Applications – A Special Case

I said that proper ending of the mentoring was “important”, but in the case of youth mentoring, whether school-based or community-based, an inappropriate ending can be devastating. The data from youth mentoring is very clear on this issue. The very outcomes we seek as a result of youth mentoring can happen if the relationship endures at least a year, but especially if it lasts 18 months. However, the same outcomes can become worse than they originally were before mentoring if the menor just stops at some point and the youth are not clear about why mentoring is eneded. The feeling of rejection, especially by someone they thought they could trust and who cared, is powerful in a negative way.

Their thinking is something like, “I thought this guy cared about me. He said I was important, and worth his attention. I guess none of that was really true after all. I am not worth caring about. I am not important and worth his attention. I am not worth anything at all.” Clearly this sense of worthlessness is what leads to a desire to be valued, and that is met by a gang. It’s what leads to a desire to be affirmed by anyone, “No matter how bad what I do is”. It’s what can easily lead to teen pregnancy and even lawleeness. The need for acceptance and affirmation is so strong. Such poor ending of the mentoring must be avoided because it steals away the portege’s hope in a better future.