For the last few years, I’ve had a mentor at work. Throughout, I’ve received guidance, insight and confidence. I believe, however, the relationship has run its course. How do I tactfully end it?
– Breaking Up Is Hard to Do
Dear Breaking Up,
Given the limited amount of information I have regarding your relationship, I’m going to assume it was healthy and productive while it lasted and that you, as a mentee, also brought something to the table.
The good news is, if you’re sensing that the relationship has run its course, then it was successful – you sought a mentor to guide you. Now you’re ready to go out on your own. Also, your mentor likely senses the direction your relationship is heading. After all, if she wasn’t savvy, you likely wouldn’t be in this relationship in the first place.
To end the mentoring relationship, there are two routes you can go, depending on which one feels more comfortable for you. Both involve speaking your truth.
First, you can choose the direct route. Invite her to lunch and share candidly, saying, “I’ve appreciated all the assistance and support you’ve given me over the years. You’ve done such a stellar job, I feel more prepared than ever before and no longer feel the need to meet together formally.”
I’d also take the time to highlight a few specific takeaways or insights your mentor provided, as well as any personal, sincere compliments, such as always being available when you called. You want her to feel that you genuinely received value from the time she invested. Wrap it up by saying thank you and (if you mean it) that you hope you can check in now and again to catch up on a more personal level. By all means, pick up the tab.
The second option is to suggest a trial separation of sorts. Let her know that you’re feeling confident to meet less often and would like to take a 90-day break from your regular interactions, then re-evaluate at the three-month mark. At that point, let her know your mentoring relationship has been a success and you appreciate all she’s done for you.
Be sure not to burn any bridges, leaving open the possibility for future collaboration.