As I have recently left my employer of 12 years, I am glad to say that I was able to do so on good terms with many great working relationships. It made me think about this post from September, 2012.
Some events over the last couple of weeks have reminded me that it’s important to establish strong professional relationships. It’s also critical to make sure you don’t burn bridges with those people you work with and respect. We’ve all heard the term “it’s a small world”. This is especially true when you get started as a professional and begin to find your niche. You never know when someone who you have worked for or with will turn up in an interview or on a search committee.
Sometimes bridges get burned in the heat of a moment. We might act impulsively and not think through our actions or words. Giving an issue 24 hours to settle helps us think and act more rationally and less emotionally. “Sleeping on it” is always a good ides so as not to do or say something you might regret. Talking things over with trusted friends or a mentor is another good approach to dealing with work related stress, conflict, or issues.
I am reminded of a situation I experienced a couple of weeks ago. In the midst of trying to help someone out, issues came up that left me with a professional dilemma. A few years ago I probably would have thrown my hands up and stormed off. What I have learned is that giving it some time, talking it over, thinking rationally and expressing my side allowed me to work with colleagues to find a solution. The people involved are professionals that I respect whose relationships I value. I was determined to find a solution that everyone was happy with. Most importantly, I did not want to burn those bridges.
On the flip side, I have received two calls just this week about former employees who are currently seeking employment. Neither of them listed me as a reference, but “it’s a small world” and I got calls about them anyway. It was nice to pass on information about two great employees that I had the pleasure of supervising. No bridges burned here!
What I have learned over the years is that, if you feel strongly about something, it usually means you care – and that’s a good thing. In addition, when you really care about something, you want to make your thoughts known. This can be done without losing professional credibility or burning bridges. What’s key is HOW it’s done. Problems and concerns can be addressed and worked through. It has been done! It’s the approach you take that is the most important. It’s possible to walk away from confrontation or problems with issues resolved and bridges maintained.
The moral of the story is that, professionally, relationships matter. Just like they do personally. This is something I wished someone had stressed to me much earlier in my career! Do your best to maintain those relationships with the people you value.