Five stages of mentoring relationship development: Stage 3 – Growth and maintenance

Growth and maintenance is the third stage of a mentoring relationship between the mentor and mentee.

This series from Michigan State University Extension explores the five stages of relationship development in mentor-mentee matches. Following the initiation stage, matches will usually enter the growth and maintenance phase of the relationship. For full-term mentoring relationships, this will usually be the longest lasting of the stages.

During growth and maintenance, the relationship develops and matures. Mentors and mentees are no longer trying to impress each other. Rather, they are building a relationship based on trust and may start to share a more vulnerable side. Support from program staff is essential as matches navigate this stage of the relationship.

What can you expect during growth and maintenance?

  • As the relationship matures, the mentee should become more comfortable taking a lead in choosing activities. Gatherings will become more collaborative rather than mentor-led.
  • The relationship will become more comfortable. As the connection grows and trust is built, boundaries may change. Both the mentor and mentee might be more open to sharing personal information or talking about topics that are deeper than what they discussed early in the match.
  • Program staff will check in regularly with the mentor, mentee and parent. It is important matches are supervised and offered regular support. Program staff will look for red flags that signal potential problems.
  • Issues may arise within the relationship or the mentor may have concerns about the mentee. Program staff can assist mentors in working through problems through training, ongoing match support and by mediating when difficulties arise.
  • Relationships develop at different rates. Some people trust more easily while others are far more cautious. There is no need to push to reach milestones quickly – in fact, pushing can have the opposite effect.

A significant event that tests or breaks trust within the relationship can result in the match going back to the initiation stage or moving toward the next stage, decline and dissolution.  

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