Leaving Your Job? Never Burn ‘Bridges’ As You Might Want To Cross Them Again!


As we journey through our careers we will cross many metaphorical bridges. We build our own bridges with people and with organisations as we gain promotion and advance. What usually happens when we leave an organisation though is we burn and destroy the bridge.

This reminds me of how armies act during major conflicts! When they are on the offensive they want all the bridges open and intact. They even build their own temporary (pontoon style) bridges as they go. If however an army is on the retreat they blow all the bridges up to slow down the enemy chasing them.

I put my hand up and admit in my early career I did exactly this, when leaving companies I didn’t just burn bridges, I blew them up in spectacular style! Over the years however I have taken a far more pragmatic approach.

Some of the responsibility for bridge destruction lies in the hands of the employer that is losing you. We have all been in the situation where they take you for granted and under pay you, only offering the much overdue promotion or more money, AFTER you hand in your notice! This offer is usually too late and often thrown back in their face! The departure is acrimonious and the bridge is gone!

Instead employers should see the progression of their staff as a reflection of how well they have trained and nurtured them. They will obviously be disappointed to lose you but also delighted for you, they offer you the chance of a welcome return in the future. Where this happens the bridge remains intact.

The key fact is that the ‘world’ is getting smaller and your paths will undoubtedly cross with many people throughout your career. Fate has a way of bringing you back face to face with people from your past. When bridges have been left intact in the past then a fantastic reunion takes place that can herald great things but when bridges have been burned in the past it can herald a very swift exit to stage left!

I am a great example of what can happen when you keep your bridges intact. I decided a number of years ago to go freelance and set up my own training business. The fact that so many of my former employers are now my clients is testimony to my own ability to leave on good terms.

Here are my top tips on bridge preservation and how to resign professionally:

  • Be as open and honest as you can be in the lead up to your resignation
  • Rehearse what you will say and ALWAYS thank them personally and the business/organisation as well for the experience and opportunity
  • NEVER resign to anyone other than your immediate line manager
  • Don’t resign in a dramatic fashion in order to make a ‘statement’ to colleagues
  • Always have your resignation letter pre-prepared but tell them face to face
  • Always make an appointment to see your manager and tell them it is about your future with the company. If they ‘guess’ you are going to resign and push you to tell them, don’t, instead say you wish to discuss it in person.
  • Don’t get into an argument, even if your manager provokes you
  • Be absolutely sure you want to leave, do not use the other job as a bargaining tool

I have focussed this blog on bridges with employers BUT if you think about it exactly the same applies to clients too!

Many thanks

Mark Williams

Head of Training

MTD Training | Management Blog | Image courtesy by D D Pavumba of FreeDigitalPhotos.Net

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