The Richmond Register

March 9, 2014

Burning bridges and the importance of relationships

By Jennifer Napier
Register Columnist

RICHMOND — “Congratulations on your new job!” You tell a co-worker who announced she would be leaving in a couple of weeks. “Where are you going?” You ask her.

“I’ve landed a job that will put this place to shame! I am so excited about leaving here. This is going to be a great chance to advance my career,” the co-worker tells you.

You’ve worked for your employer long enough to see other co-workers come and go. You want to be excited for your co-worker because she is confident that this will be a positive career move for her, but you are worried that over the next couple of weeks, she’s going to make the mistake of burning several bridges before she leaves her current job.

A week later, you visit your co-worker and see her talking on her cell phone. You decide to take care of another task and come back to her later. You complete the task and return to her work station a half hour later to find her still on the phone. This time you stand nearby and wait on her. You need her report so you can get your work done.

She glances up and takes the hint. After hanging up, she tells you she was on the phone with her Realtor.

“This new job pays better, so we’re buying a bigger house,” she says. “My new employer has perks and benefits that put this place to shame. I’ve always thought this place was a joke.”

You want to shake your head and have a long talk with her, but you refrain from saying what you really think. You simply ask her for the report.

She replies, “I didn’t do it yet. Besides, what are they going to do – fire me if I don’t finish it? I leave next week.”

By the time the co-worker’s last day arrives, everyone is looking forward to her leaving. She has bragged about her new employer, and put down her current employer so much, that everyone is sick of hearing her talk.

She is leaving projects incomplete, much of her workload unfinished, and her work station in a mess. As she walks out the door for the last time, you shake your head.

A fellow co-worker asks, “What’s wrong?” You reply, “She has no idea how many bridges she has just burned.”

You will spend decades working, so it is important to build and nurture positive professional relationships. Over the course of your career, you will be amazed at how many times you will cross paths with others you have known from former jobs, school, sports, kids’ activities, volunteer service, professional organizations and more.

You have no way of knowing how and when those individuals will re-enter your life, or what role they will play in your future.

“Burning bridges” means that someone has damaged relationships with others to the point that future interactions and communications would be difficult or impossible.

Career hint: Don’t burn bridges.

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