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Terminating The Mentoring Relationship (Closure)

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It is natural for mentoring relationships to end (see Stages Of A Mentoring Relationship). Some relationships may end sooner than others and there is any number of different reasons for terminating a mentoring relationship. When the time comes to end your mentoring relationship, it is important to do so in a professional manner to achieve appropriate closure.

Closure can be difficult but it is an essential component of the mentoring relationship cycle. Closure can be a meaningful and mutually satisfying exercise if both mentoring partners enter the discussion with a positive intent. It is often overlooked due to the fact that the mentoring pair may be meeting infrequently and it's a natural inclination to let the relationship fade away, rather than having a formal discussion about ending the relationship.  Also, if the relationship has been difficult, one or both participants may wish to avoid what they feel could be an uncomfortable discussion.

Here are some of the downsides of this avoidance - you miss:

  • the affirmation of the growth that occurred during the relationship
  • the opportunity to discuss and plan direction for future growth
  • celebration of successes
  • reflection that leads to deeper learning
  • redefining the relationship for the future

It is important that the mentoring partners discuss the end of the relationship at the beginning of it. This discussion should have included:

  • What does closure look like? Is it the end of a specific time frame or a list of goals achieved?
  • Agreement of a "no-fault" conclusion to the relationship - either partner may end the relationship without fear of reprisals or hard feelings.

Now that termination of your mentoring relationship is desired, some reflection and discussion by both participating individuals may be helpful for future mentoring relationships of either individual. These reflections may include the following:

  • A discussion about the learning that has occurred - discuss what each partner has taken away from the relationship and how they plan to use this information
    1. Were the planned goals achieved?
    2. What did the partners learn outside of the objectives?
    3. What did the mentor/mentee learn about being a mentor/mentee?
    4. What will the mentor/mentee do differently in the next relationship?
    5. What are the next steps? 
  • An agreement on what the relationship will look like in the future -
    1. Can the mentee check in at an agreed upon future time?
    2. Will they negotiate for an extension of the relationship with different goals?
    3. Will this be an equitable peer relationship?
    4. Will there be no relationship other than informal encounters? 

ACTION: When it is time to end the relationship, please complete the Terminating The Mentoring Partnership form (online version; paper version). This form should be completed by both the mentor and mentee and can be used to guide your closure discussion. When the form is completed, please send a copy to the JUMP Manager.

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Evelyn Anthony, MD
Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs
Shannon Suggs
Program Coordinator

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