As we journey through our careers we will cross a great many metaphorical bridges. We build bridges with people and with organisations as we gain promotion and advance. What usually happens when we leave an organisation though, is we often 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 road and rail 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 destroy all the bridges behind them in order to slow down the enemy that is chasing them.

I put my hand up and admit that 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 learned to take a far more pragmatic approach.

Some of the responsibility for bridge destruction certainly 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 paid you, only offering the much overdue promotion or raise of salary, AFTER you have handed in your notice! This offer is usually too late and often rejected, the departure is then 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 should also be delighted for you. They should offer you the chance of a welcome return in the future as when this 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. When I set up The Sales Performance Company the first people I called included some of former employers. The fact that so many of them are now my clients is testimony to my own ability to leave a business 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 burning bridges with employers BUT if you think about it exactly the same applies to clients too!

Thank you for reading.

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