If either mentor or mentee leaves the organization, it is not a calamity – in fact, it can be an opportunity. People seek new opportunities all the time and it’s not always possible to find the right opportunity within an organization.
If the mentor leaves, it’s common to continue the relationship, even at a distance (using Skype or other media), for the following reasons:
- If the mentor and mentee have already established trust and begun working on issues, neither wishes to waste that investment
- The mentor can often be more open in what they say, than when they were confined by the need to respect corporate information, which they were not permitted to share
- The mentor can take a different perspective from their new vantage point
The mentee may want also to have another mentor, who is still with the organization, in parallel, but over time, it is normal for them to focus on only one of the two relationships.
If the mentee talks about leaving, they are likely first to discuss their decision with their mentor. This creates an opportunity to:
- Help them think through what they want from their next job role in general
- Explore specific opportunities (both inside the same organization, if available, and outside) from the perspective of how they align with the mentee’s needs. Useful questions include:
- Will this job role open up future opportunities for you, or narrow your choices?
- What learning and personal development opportunities will it create?
- How does it meet your strengths and your values?
- Reinforce the trust within the mentoring relationship, so that they return to their mentor, when they outgrow the new job role. The mentor can then help them back into the organization, along with the valuable additional skills and know-how they have acquired. (Re-recruitment from this source saves some companies millions of dollars annually in recruitment costs.)
What mentors should not do is take a partisan perspective and try to persuade the mentee to stay. Their role is simply to ensure the mentee has the information to make a good choice and to support them, whatever they choose.
© David Clutterbuck, 2014