Why You Don’t Burn Bridges…or You Try Not To

A bridge burning in flames

Image pulled from Google search. Source:http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaigns/burning-bridge


Sometimes, you have something to say but for the good of confidentiality, you have to say it carefully. I thought long and hard about not saying anything at all, but I think there’s an important lesson to be shared from my experience. So here goes my best explanation at how I moved from organization A, or, The First Real Job, to my new role at the education organization.

I’ve been experiencing, fortunately and unfortunately at times, a lot of endings lately. Sometimes, life gives us easy, good endings that are jubilant affairs (like my recent ending of a long-term hospital stay after a rare and SCARY heart problem). Other times, they’re ugly, painful endings that hurt and scar us. Other times still, the endings are painful and hard, but endings that need to happen in order for you to move on to the next big thing.

For those of you who are astrology creeps like me (I blame my mother and Hollins for this), you might find it interesting to learn I’m a Capricorn. For all my fellow goats out there; you’ll get this next statement. The rest of you, maybe not. I don’t adjust well to rapid change. It takes me a long time to process through emotions and then these emotions oftentimes bite me in the tootsie at inopportune times. Suddenly the grief comes pouring out  over xyz thing randomly over my morning coffee or a stubbed toe. It’s quite annoying.

So I left the disabilities services organization last August, after much agony over the decision that frankly,  involved a whole lot of praying. I was also serving on my church’s pastor nominating committee at the time, so let’s just say lots of introspection time and praying brought me to the decision that it was time to go. I felt I had given all I could reasonably give to the organization and it was no longer in my best interests to continue in the position. Time to find bigger and better pastures. Sometimes, this happens. You have to move on from jobs that no longer fit you and your abilities, if there is no room or opportunity for growth and/or reason to stay and find out if there is. I also think that non-profit pros especially should not trick themselves into believing a problematic organizational culture is the standard “norm” for non-profits. Yes, non-profits struggle with management of resources (staff, volunteers, donors, etc.) and have budget restrictions and limitations that for-profits do not, but they also have a TON of rewards and opportunities that I believe, personally, for-profit work does not. For me, I need to be able to do what I love (PR, writing, working with people) and feel like what I’m doing is creating or fostering meaningful, positive change in the world.

Without going into dirty details, let’s just say: It was not an easy departure.

Someone took my place after a few months. I was helpful and friendly, making sure the social media transitions happened and answering any questions about the position-holding my tongue often to try not and taint this person’s view of the org. from the get go- and generally tried to be a good predecessor. Because we’ve all been stuck in those positions where someone crappily left and you are left dealing with the mess of fixing someone’s laziness, out-right sabotage, and other drama angry people do when they leave jobs angrily (and you know, sometimes, the anger is justified so I try not to judge..but come on….). It ain’t fun. I had also heard that some pretty deregatory, untrue things were being said about me by some former co-workers and management.

What did I do in response? I said nothing.

I also don’t know that these things were truly being said, being that I was no longer there,  so I cannot say with any certainty this is what happened.  I was angry and hurt but I thought at the time;  don’t go there. Don’t dig it up or hash it out unnecessarily because that will seal the deal in never being able to reference back to that job. I’m pretty sure I could have fought back on some of the issues and would have been within my rights to do so, but I didn’t.

The person who took my position after me also recently left that organization, or so I was told by a note from LinkedIn from her and then a subsequent note that literally brought me to tears. This person had zero obligation to say the incredibly kind, flattering things to me about my work there, in her eyes, and gave me a closure she couldn’t have possibly known I needed to feel better about leaving behind some very vulnerable people whom I truly wanted to stay and sacrifice all to try and help.

Always, always, always try to avoid burning bridges, especially with jobs and with contacts and with networks. ESPECIALLY as a PR person. You’re whole job and work is built around relationship-building, and if you crash & burn your relationships needlessly…well, you never know when you may need to make a connection and that connection is someone you screwed over, talked badly about or a previous first employer who was not the best place for you. The message here, folks: When you have to go, leave with grace and then, stay gone with grace.


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