Don't Burn Those Bridges
July 13, 2016
My first job out of college was for a natural healthcare product manufacturer. I was hired to set up a Human Resources Department and do a “little” accounts receivable. Within a few short weeks, I realized it was all accounts receivable and very little human resources. Consequently, I was unhappy, but even more miserable due to the working conditions – no air conditioning in a windowless office area, a boss who wouldn’t let sick people leave until their work was completed, etc. After six months I couldn’t take it any longer. I went home for lunch and drafted a scathing resignation letter, which upon my return, I nervously handed to my boss.
It was quickly decided it would be best if I left immediately, but I was asked to see the CEO on my way out, which I did. He invited me to sit down and said he was sorry to see me leave and then said, “Let me give you a little advice…” He told me to never burn my bridges. He explained that my harsh letter, while much of it might be true, could have been expressed differently and more effectively. He went on to say that because of the delivery, I could never ask them for a recommendation, and I could never seek future employment with them.
I walked out of his office thinking he was pompous and arrogant.
His advice, however, has stuck with me because he was right. Over the years, I have watched colleagues burn bridges only to regret it a few weeks later. My advice – think about what you want to say, how it will be perceived, and whether it will realistically bright about change. Just don’t burn your bridges because you never know when you might need to cross that bridge in the future.
Anne Converse Willkomm
Director, Graduate Studies