Burning Bridges, a Two-way Road

Opting to burn bridges does not give license to name, blame, and shame.

burning bridgesWe’ve all heard the adage “don’t burn your bridges.” As you leave positions for new opportunities in your career, don’t fear the specter of burning bridges. Sometimes they’re a good thing.

To date, I have removed four professional colleagues from my address book, social media connections, and blocked them from my life… completely. The idea came to me as a result of long reflection and this article: How the People Around You Affect Personal Success (Lifehacker).

I didn’t reach this decision easily, but in reflecting on my past interaction with these people, the “burning bridges” conclusion was a no-brainier. In general this choice came as a result of their history of behavior and overall attitude. In total, both trended counter to professional ethics and best practice. I also applied some specific assessments to assure my motivation was driven by a level-headed calculation of facts and not spite.

Questions to consider before burning bridges

  • Will your association with these people, no matter how distant or removed, reflect well on your credibility or spread a cloud of doubt over your professional judgement?
  • If these people ask you for a professional reference or to connect them with another professional peer, will you welcome this or cringe?
  • Do these people have an active interest in your success and interests, or do they have something else in mind?
  • If you rank their values and motivation—where would they fall on a continuum ranging from selfless to self-serving?
  • Perhaps the most telling, are these people front of mind when you read articles like these?

Like bridges, professional networking is a two-way road

With the perspective of time I still find comfort in my choice. This process has reaffirmed that professional networking is a two-way road. There needs to be mutual interest in helping and celebrating the successes of one another. When that ceases being true, it is time to cut things off.

Opting to burn bridges does not give license to name, blame, and shame. In my experience, the people blocked from my network had already burned their bridge with me. They choose to: harm over help, diminish and not enrich, undermine instead of encourage, and poison over edify. It was just my turn to complete the process and close the other lane.

Additional Resources

About Benjamin Mohler

Benjamin Mohler, CFRE, ACFRE has a keen interest in understanding the connection between culture and the practice of philanthropy. His experiences working with international nonprofit organizations, extensive international travel, together with his graduate work at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota and leadership roles with local nonprofits combine to produce his expertise in this area. He’s also a big baseball fan.

Mohler is the Assistant Vice President for Major and Planned Gifts at Eastern Kentucky University. Prior to his current role, he held key roles with The William States Lee College of Engineering at UNC Charlotte, Cedarville University, and The Cockrell School of Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. He is a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE), Advanced Certified Fundraising Professional (ACFRE), and serves AFP at an international level, including his current role chairing the publishing committee for the AFP Fund Development Series.

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