Organisational Development

Failure of the mentoring relationship

How to identify problems with a mentoring relationship and what to do if the relationship isn't working.

Signs that a mentoring relationship isn’t working

Hopefully you will find yourself in a productive mentoring relationship that is rewarding for both mentee and mentor. That said, occasionally mentoring arrangements encounter problems despite everyone's best efforts. 

Things to look out for:

  • mentee/mentor cancels appointments, fails to turn up or regularly rearranges last minute
  • mentee/mentor consistently fails to make progress on actions identified in meetings
  • mentee/mentor appears distracted in sessions or cuts sessions short

How to move forward if the relationship isn’t working

The following steps will help you manage a failing mentoring relationship.

Get feedback

Ask the mentee for feedback on how they are finding the mentoring arrangement. It might be that they think everything is going well or have similar concerns to you. Either way, you have more information to help you decide how to proceed.

Acknowledge the issue openly

The next time you meet, be honest and tell the mentee that you feel that something isn’t working with the mentoring arrangement. Give factual examples of why you think this, e.g. you’ve cancelled a number of appointments. Jointly explore whether there are things you could both do to get the relationship working more effectively.

End the mentoring relationship constructively

The fact is that some mentoring relationships don't work out. Don’t leave your mentee hanging or prolong the arrangement unnecessarily, instead have a constructive discussion about how the mentee can progress beyond the mentoring arrangement. If you inform your scheme coordinator they will be able to identify an alternative mentor. 

Next steps

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Organisational Development
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