Change to meet your Needs

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Keep those bridges intact ……

Recently I’ve been again on the verge of a transition and moving from a job to another and have observed my friends and colleagues and their behavioral changes during resignation process and/or getting fired and moving for the new job. Particularly, if you've spent months in an unhappy work situation, you might be tempted to unleash your bottled-up frustration with a take-this-job-and-shove-it resignation. In this particular point I remembered one of my recent ex-boss who used to regularly de-motivate me on writing Blogs, later I’ve discovered him as a fan of my articles. He disclosed later that, it’s been always better to read my mind through these articles because it has got true reflections of my mind. Now, we don’t work together, but he still keeps visiting.

But the damage you can always cause to your career easily outweighs the short-term satisfaction. Just because you've got one foot out the door does not mean you can sever relationships. In fact, your last few weeks on this transitions the job can be the most important. Rather than burning bridges, do as much mending as you can, even if a great new job awaits. Because, you never know how your future job would treat you, like this present one while you left the earlier one, and joined this with a great hope. Make sure your departure as easy for your employer as possible. No matter how hard and how long you worked there, if the last thing you do is leave a bad taste in your ex-employer's mouth, that's what they're going to remember you by.

The relationships you leave will matter after you're gone. Even if you don't list a ticked-off boss or co-worker as a reference, he or she could happen to know your future potential employers or clients. It's a small world, and a bad reputation will follow you. Professional courtesy in the final days can't erase months of poor performance though. On the other hand, a botched exit can overshadow your accomplishments too. One of my expert seniors often have told me that, both are carpets and both are having dusts beneath. In context with the present and future company, the difference of the present carpet looks very dirty to you, because you’re nearer and can see all of these and living within it for some time, and the other carpet looks dirt free because you’re watching it from a distance.

Mending 101

To avoid burning your bridges, you must follow protocol.

At a minimum:

  • Schedule a meeting with your supervisor to announce your resignation before you tell anyone else in the company. Let him or her determine how to inform the rest of the staff.
  • Write a resignation letter for your personnel file.
  • Give at least two weeks' notice.
  • Train your replacement, if possible.
  • Organize your files and workspace. Return all equipment.
  • Prepare a memo detailing the status of all unfinished projects; include instructions for completion.
  • Make yourself available to answer questions that might arise after you leave.

Beyond the basics

There's much to be gained by going above and beyond these requirements. Just as a bad reputation inhibits your career opportunities, a good one can certainly enhance them.

Whatever you do, avoid speaking poorly of the company or airing your feelings about someone. You have to bury the hatchet and you may have to swallow your pride for the long term benefit. Better yet, try to find something positive to say to your boss in your resignation meeting and letter. If your experience with the employer was positive, mention what you liked about your job and thank your supervisor for the opportunity.

If you can't think of anything praise-worthy about your past experience, phrase your compliments in terms of success to come. For instance, you could say, "I know this team will do great things. Your new project is really going to take off."

Expert mending

If you've managed to leave a favorable impression, build on the good feelings by keeping in touch with former managers and co-workers, who can prove valuable career resources.

Even if you can't envision returning to your former employer, past bosses are important resources for future job searches.

When looking for a new position, "the first thing you should do is call back your old bosses. No one is more familiar with your skills, experience, preferences and style. They're likely to know of opportunities that would be right for you, and they might give you contacts if you're on good terms. I still didn’t face such privileges through my past bosses or companies to join them back or giving good recommendations, but I believe strongly that these relations are worth keeping and nourishing them for the real bad times.

Plus, future managers may appreciate the fact that you've stayed in touch with those before them.

When new employer checks references and a former employer says he or she has just seen or heard from the candidate, he knows the employment ended on a positive note and the candidate understands that the importance of maintaining ties. That impresses the bejeebies out of me because it shows that person is a relationship builder.


Anonymous said...


If all this is indeed true.. why did you start a blog on one of your ex employer ( you know whom I am talking about ) and made some nasty comments on the management and the owner....and attacked them personally.. and not only that.. you incited many of your team members who were sacked to write some very obscene comments on that blog.. I guess you have heard the term" Charity begins at home"

Dibyendu Choudhury said...

I can see your point, but I guess you're not fully right what u know about. Same like here, I could have also deleted this message because, you don't have gutt to show up your name.

The nasty comments were the spiraling effects, people took that blog as medium to window their grief. I've had that gutt atleast I didn't hide my id, when I've uploaded the blog.

People are not bound to be alike and there could be difference of opinions too. So, this was the clear cut scenario where I differed with the management practice of my ex-employer and quit. Then I've uploaded the blog where many of my team mates came and written their feelings once they're fired.

You know what, thanks again for bringing this topic here, but I would request you next time to disclose your id and try to know the entire picture before commenting.

I'm sure you're still enjoying the good effect of that Blog and working with the same employer.


Kimberley Jones-Hill said...

It is funny because the people that always seem to be cramming the statement, "don't burn bridges" down your throat are the ones that talk the most negatively about co-workers and owners. It is like they feel like they need to make themselves look better if they "preach the gospel" yet they are not practicing it in any way, shape or form.

I had a supervisor that we did not mesh. She and I had totally different personalities. I knew it. She knew it and that was that. Several co-workers told me that she would tend to make snide comments about me during lunches, etc. I approached her and of course she lied through her teeth then gave the the speech about how you should never burn a bridge.

Ugh, I do not miss her! From what I have heard from the people that still work with her she is still on a mission to bad mouth everyone on her team. I am glad that I decided to leave on my own.


Lisa Jones said...

I completely agree. I have worked with many people that I don't necessarily like on a personal level, but I keep those feelings to myself. You don't have to like someone to have a good working relationship with them, out of respect. I try to focus on the positive.

I've also had project managers that I did not like at first, but turned out to be my biggest supporters. When working in any job, but perhaps especially within communications, one has to learn to adjust to individuals and groups with different personal and professional styles. Just as quickly as a bad working relationship can pull you down, a good one can send you straight to the top!

Philippe Demeur said...

We are 100% aligned.
Somebody said be nice to people on your way up, you will meet them again on your way down..... and I would add you'll meet them again if you fly level!
My current boss is somebody I worked with while we were both in another company 14 years ago and I am currently exploring possible deals with the company I left a year ago!
Although it is at times challenging, separating "personal" from "professional" is essential in such a dynamic and global little world.

Helene Bergren said...

We're in PR, right? True, we can't always PR the PR person to convince him or her the relationship is better than it is when we're leaving a company. However, this work is about building relationships, not discarding them.

I assure you, I've been frustrated with professional relationships. However, I was pleasantly surprised just this week. My main non-profit client is making some positive, long,long-needed changes to its biggest event of the year. We've addressed this multiple times, and finally, success. The right people spoke up at the right time, when the president was ready to focus on this event. And the change will result in increased media coverage.

The PR director and I could have left and found other opportunities, but we didn't. It was worth not burning that bridge to see an event (and more important business products) become much more contemporary, and much more valuable to the customer base. It's change that's good to see while still working with this client. It would also be enjoyable to see as a supportive, positive onlooker with a former working relationship with the organization.

As you know as a change management pro, change can take time - enormous amounts - so we simply have to decide when it's worth it to walk away. When we can walk away professionally and not look back. And, yes, in some cases, when to walk away because the situation is worth burning bridges over - legal issues, overall incompetency in a company, ideological differences, wrong color of tile in the restroom.

Sometimes it's our attitude that makes us want to burn bridges, even a justifiable negative opinion can make us break relationships that shouldn't be discarded. Even in a company wrought with personnel issues, a few good relationship apples might be worth salvaging.

I like John Maxwell books. His The Difference Maker, Making Your Attitude Your Greatest Asset, is a good book to read before you're in the position of wanting to burn bridges. The web resources I list, touch on some background thoughts about burning bridges professionally.


Prashant Bhekare said...


Think of your relationships with others as truthful or false communication.

If you are truthful in your communications with others, you really do not have to worry about what you said. So also if your relationship is based on honesty you need not consider the implications.

All the problems start the moment you lie and in this case have a false (manipulated) relationship.

When the foundation is weak all the juggling has to occur.

Best wishes.


Prashant Bhekare said...

Another thought,

The above answer was my perspective about my work environment. What when the people I am working with are a problem?

I let them be and let them go, I pass without antagonism or trying to change people and their perspective about myself. I just add a circle of caution when I deal with them. They do not have access to my inner core or inner springs of goodness.

Benjamin Myers said...

This isn't really a question.

Anyway I believe in burning some bridges for the same reasons Sun Tzu would give. There are some people you want as your enemies, and reputations work both ways.

Lubna Kably said...

Hi Dibs

If one wants to play safe, yes - don't burn those bridges. But surely, there are people, you don't ever want to see again?

I am honest in my exit interviews, whatever be the cost. I believe it is more important for an organisation to know what is wrong and to take pains to rectify this problem, perhaps it hurts a few, but then again, perhaps it is for the larger good.

So, perhaps, I do burn a few bridges. Fortunately on most occassions this is taken in a constructive manner and the bridge gets built again.


Jacques J.J. Soudan said...

Sure - keep up appearances - after all, it's all politics, isn't it?

Bhaskar Ray said...

Hi Dib,
just I'v gone through the comment of your welwisher. It is a real fact. Still I am under impression that this welwisher is from your previous organisation and trying to develop the image of his organisation which his duty. Please keep it in your mind that all are depends on the back to back policy and issue based.What he is doing that his job, Hi friend (welwisher) please keep it up.
Dib, cool boy.
Bhaskar Ray

Robert Bigdowski said...

Dear Dibyendu

Being young and impulsive I sometimes cut contact with a few people. I guess that was an errance. From a human point of view and also from the opportuinities and doors that closed suddenly. Now being more mature I try to stay into contact and especially seek contact and meet real connectors and mentors that brought me further.

I admit there might be people one does not want to see again, as somebody told. that is okay. I mean you don't have to please everybody, but completely cutting yourself off, or seperating on bad terms, is not a favor either. Bad reputation is like a shadow following you everywhere. So try to avoid conflict and leave a company peacefully if that is possible. There is no need to make a big fuss,if you know you gonna leave. Simply let go...

Best wishes,

Tim Lemire said...

Always a nice thought, but sometimes it's the person/people you left behind who burns the bridge, spreading false information and slander about you as a petty revenge. You can be as polite, professional, and "above the fray" as you wish, but you're not the only person with matches.

aurora bramble said...

i burn bridges

there are some people i do not want to know so rather than endure or complain i make them disappear from my life

to anyone whose opinion might matter that might just as easily make my reputation as break it

i don't suffer fools gladly nor do i make nice with not nice people

i certainly am not going to maintain a relationship with someone i disrespect because someday they might be useful to me

that would be classless

Kevin Harville said...

I prefer to think of people as in varying degrees of health rather than good or bad. So a boss I didn't like would be sicker than most, not evil. Of course, some people hurt us and it is hard to have that attitude sometimes. Still, people who hurt people are not well. This is not to say we should stay in a hostile environment or tolerate it.

I think the most constructive, healthy, approach is to always aim for the most positive approach. (Reading this back, that seems so obvious the sentence seemed redundant.)

Observing the ways different people with similar opportunities handle them, you can really see how negative people sink their own ships.

Susan Rink said...

Hi, Dib! Interesting topic. I have to say that I've had my share of bad bosses -- some worse than others. There are only two that stand out, years later, as really awful. In both cases, I think there were medical/mental issues that were not obvious until the beast came out.

But what about the "below average" boss -- the one who either emotionally immature, passive agressive, socially inept or just plain disorganized and unprofessional? I always say that I've learned more about being a good manager from my weakest managers. Thanks to them and their managment practices, I know all the wrong decisions without having to experience the pain of learning on my own. :)

Bottom line -- you can only be judged for your own character and integrity, not someone else's. So you must work to maintain your good name and not obsess about the shadow your former boss casts. Don't badmouth him or her -- there is nothing so off-putting in an interview as someone who trashes a current or former supervisor. At the end of the day, the truth will always come out, without any help from you.

Dib, I hope this helps!


Scott Clous said...

Isn't Linkedin a great example -- but it's also all about the web of trust... and time to research people.... I think most of us know how easy character assassination is -- but youtube videos of one's self can be just as educational -- My own info, good, bad, ugly, is out there -- but because I've put most of it out and long ago, I expect that will be the first seen. Practically, why not be kind to others? It sure makes it easier to get along. I've had great relationships with all my employers.

Paul Carcone said...

This is a question that requires a little more thought than it appears to on the surface. short...

I would say that in most cases...don't burn them. You may have misjudged them, or they may be sufficiently spiteful to try to harm your prospects in some way.

However, there are, possibly, a few bridges that you might want to burn publicly to distance yourself from a person who brings discredit on your whole team...or something similar.

I know that this is a hugely non-committal my opinion...the answer to this question is that "it depends".

Paul Carcone

Kamal Karera said...

IMO Not burning bridges in the fear of someone that may harm in future is not something that should be practiced.

Follow the thumb rule "Give Respect to earn respect" and it will sum up everything. Every individual has his/her strengths and weaknesses. Depends on what we look at and how we analyze it. Liking or disliking is a perception which should never be publicized.

Sutanu Bhattacharyya said...

Dibyendu, you definitely have a point and this is specifically true because at the end of the day, we are professionals and should behave professionally. Moreover, in case of Senior Management positions this is quite crucial to determine how professional is the person and does he follow Corporate ethics.

However, the extent may be determined by the cause of your exit from the organization.

In my recent unique experience of my career, I had to leave my Organization because the CEO of the Company was violating Corporate Governance, Laws of the Land, and basic Corporate norms! The worst part was that when I disagreed with him, he used his authority to surpass me and get the wrongs done through other staff and I being the Director of India Operations, I was accountable for his wrong doings! I tried speaking to him, writing to him, discussing and communicating with him through other Senior Management in his Country, but he was stuck with his ego and refused to relent.

Finally, I decided to put in my papers mentioning that although I was in disagreement, CEO used his authority to get the wrongs implemented through other staff and due to violations in Corporate Governance, Laws of the Land and to protect my integrity I am leaving the Company and I handed over the belongings and the Source Codes, passwords, etc. to the Administration and mentioned these points in my letter as well. I collected the acknowledgement and receipt from the Admin regarding the materials. That was the best I could have done because serving notice period would mean more violations done under my name, which is not acceptable!

Although I have left the Company, I would need to carry out the paper procedures with the Government Authorities stating my resignation so that I am not put to trouble unnecessarily!

So to support your view, though this has been the worst case, I have tried to do a proper hand over without burning the bridges and the result was that another Director spoke to me and wanted me to join back, promised to discuss with CEO and come back to me but he too could not convince the CEO to change his stance. This Director still wanted me to join back maintaining the status quo, which I refused for obvious reasons. He understood my circumstances and point-of-view but was helpless because the CEO is the owner of the Company and also happens to be his brother-in-law!

Dominic Pannell said...

Burning bridges is an action of last resort in business as it is in war. It should never be done lightly and in most cases, I agree it should be avoided.

At times, however, when matters of principle or ethics (for example) are involved it is unavoidable. If you deem it necessary, then plan carefully and execute efficiently. You will meet the person(s) you upset again.

One of the best lessons I have learned comes from Dale Carnegie's aging classic "How to Win Friends and Influence People" - in it he says "Never Criticize, Condemn, or Complain" about anybody. It's really hard to avoid doing those things, but the benefits are incredible. By not associating yourself with negative comments, you can create a halo effect whereby people want to associate with you and learn from you.

I had to burn one particular bridge several years ago because of my principles, but I recognise that the past is the past and I make a big effort not to damage the reputations of those involved.

Alan Hill said...

I have a different perspective. This question presupposes that the employer can do something for you someday, so you should not bad mouth them. Perhaps you can do something for them someday, what if we think of that instead?
Perhaps you might know a great person to fill your slot, or a partner who can help them grow.
This is not a 'holier than thou' speech. A company I worked for, Accenture, has a GREAT program for their former employees, which they refer to as Alumni. In this case, they are 'not burning those bridges'. Imagine how valuable it is for Accenture to have connections into so many of their future clients.
So then, how does this apply to employees joining a new company? How valuable are you to be a connection to service providers who can save money for your new company?
Wow... how many previous companies have you worked for that could be of value to new companies?
Don't burn those bridges, they may help you get a promotion at your new company. :)

I am a business and executive coach in Minneapolis, MN. If you'd like more information about me, please check out my story in the link.

Wende Berry said...

Leave nicely, politely and professionally. Build new and positive strong bridges to the good people you meet, at all times and in all areas of your life.

Leave the rest behind, period. Don't speak badly of them, the truth of them will show itself. Their actions will speak louder than your words. You won't have to burn the bridge, just let it crumble.

Philippe said...

We are 100% aligned.
Somebody said be nice to people on your way up, you will meet them again on your way down..... and I would add you'll meet them again if you fly level!
My current boss is somebody I worked with while we were both in another company 14 years ago and I am currently exploring possible deals with the company I left a year ago!
Although it is at times challenging, separating "personal" from "professional" is essential in such a dynamic and global little world.

Jocelyn Chu said...

There's a LOT of sound advice from those who have responded thus far.

Thank you for starting this topic, Dib ;)

Fabrizio Puddu said...

I agree.
The bridge has to be crossed.Ever.Anyway as a PR professional I try to do my job at best leaving good recalls in my clients and colleagues.
A good help to make you recallable is to give to your client something in your consultancy that gives to the client an enrichment of his knowledge.
This develop the gratitude.

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