Burning Bridges Leaves You as an Island

We’ve all heard the typical networking sayings like, it’s all about who you know, it’s not just who you know but who knows you, and the majority of jobs are found through networking. These are very true sayings but I don’t want to talk about the positives of networking this time, but rather the negatives of poor interpersonal skills.

Consider EVERYONE you meet as a Potential Networking Option

You never know who you’re going to meet at the grocery store, in the library, at work, or any other place that could have an impact on you and you on them. This stranger that you’ve just met is now making judgments on you based upon your interactions and demeanor. And, let’s say that this stranger just happens to be in the same career field in which you’re interested, but you won’t know that until you engage him/her in a conversation. You want to choose your behaviors and interactions with the goal of building bridges instead of burning them. Not only could you burn a bridge with this specific person, but also with his/her connections.

Burning Bridges vs. Building Bridges

A friend of mine was recounting how his decisions to not engage in gossip and complaining about others in the office have helped him exponentially after being downsized from that company. Shortly after leaving that organization, he was hired by another company who happened to work directly with his previous place of work. Not only that, but he was in the beginning stages of starting his own business and his first clients happened to be the previous subjects of all the gossip. It was because of his foresight ability, and seeing everyone as a potential client/connection, that he was able to grow his business through those clients and their referrals to him.

No Person is an Island

Have you ever heard the Simon & Garfunkel song, I Am A Rock? Simon sings of a bitter diatribe about how he’s built a wall of protection around him so he can’t get hurt; with a folksy-rock sound, this song could be misinterpreted as peppy if you didn’t listen to the lyrics. Becoming a personal island is anything but peppy. An island essentially burns all possible bridges of connection to family, friends, and acquaintances of which whom could be a critical connection to a future career. People could burn bridges due to poor interpersonal skills like, ignoring others, fighting, gossiping, complaining too much, rudeness, and many other negative behaviors.

Tangible Suggestions for You Right Now

  • Be kind to clerical staff and receptionists. They have an immediate connection to the manager in the office and can reduce your chances of hire if not treated well. Also, they’re the ones who “hold the office together” and you’ll want them as allies for the future.
  • Resist gossiping in the office. Gossip has a bad habit of evolving into a monstrous lie and is usually based upon opinion instead of fact. Build your own opinion of people and resist the temptation to gossip with people in the office, because you never know who could overhear your conversations.
  • Confront conflicts professionally and calmly. If there is a problem at your place of employment, consider if it’s necessary to confront the problem or if it’s something you’re willing to accept. Things that may be necessary to confront are those affecting the company’s ability to perform. Things that you may have to accept are personality differences, which goes back to resisting the temptation to gossip. Also remember that if you choose to confront the issue, approaching it from an objective perspective and not finger-pointing will serve you best and support your complaint.

Karen is a Career Counselor and Internship Coordinator at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW). At IPFW she assists students in finding internships, coordinates and assists with campus-wide events, teaches a Career Planning course, and meets with students individually to assist them with all aspects of career development. Connect with Karen via LinkedIn or Twitter.

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4 Responses to “Burning Bridges Leaves You as an Island”

  1. avatar Greg de Lima says:

    I agree entirely with the benefits of building bridges, but I think it must be distinguished between the worth of building the bridge in the first place you you don’t have to burn it.
    A burnt bridge can be seen from the positive side as well. For example, if you are the topic of said gossip you could potentially burn this bridge professionally via HR.

  2. Greg,
    I agree with your thought on determining if a bridge should be built, but you should know that just by virtue of meeting someone a bridge is being formed. It’s your choice if you use it, but a connection was made regardless. I think this same idea can apply to your thought on positively burning a bridge. Not using the bridge could be a better option, especially if it’s because of gossip. Remember you can’t control other people and what they say, but you can control your response.

  3. i agree with this…. you never know when that one person you meet and didnt like is someone that can get you further in life…

  4. [...] Burning Bridges Leaves You as an Island [...]

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