Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Burning Bridges: When to Sever a Professional Relationship

Toxic people. We've all ran into them before, and it's never pleasant. Some are toxic right out of the gate. There are the ones that SEEM normal enough, but then try to lure you down their path to darkness. Sometimes, perfectly good people can turn bad due to their own outside influences.

Whatever the case may be, these are people that you cannot afford to influence you. For the most part, we learn ways to deal with them, keep them at arm's length, and are able to coexist.

But that's not always the case. We do live in a professional culture where we are taught to "never burn bridges." But sometimes you HAVE to if you're going to survive. So let's look at some reasons to walk away.

1. Your reputation. In the end of the day, your reputation is all you REALLY have that will make you or break you. None of us can afford to tarnish it. And while it takes years to build up, it only takes one instance to bring it to ruin.

Our reputations can be destroyed by association. So maybe you have a professional relationship with someone who is unethical. Keep associating with that person, and it will be assumed that you are unethical as well.

2. Your quality of life. If you have a Toxic person that you associate with in business, they can literally take the joy away from you. I've had a person so filled with negativity in my career that every time I knew I would have to deal with them, I would get that sick feeling in my stomach and dread the encounter. Wow! That's no way to exist!

3. Your conscience. Maybe you have a client that is asking you to do something that you're not comfortable with. Or maybe it's a boss that is insisting you adhere to questionable business practices. Or maybe it's a strategic partner who is bringing you a ton of referrals, but you find out that they're talking bad about you behind your back. Whatever the case may be, it's time to listen to the instinct that is telling you to run!

Now I completely understand that it's not always a simple matter of walking away. And often times, the decision will cost you business, money, referrals, or even your job. But in the end, you have to weigh the potential loss against the cost of allowing that person to stay in your life. When the cost outweighs the loss, then it's time to burn the proverbial bridge.

Jacki Semerau © Copyright 2008


Dave said...

Hi Jacki

I completely agree! The cost of a toxic relationship whether from the stress or financial aspects can ruin you. Sometimes it's not easy to see the relationship until it's too late, but I think your advice is good - if you have a feeling something's wrong, you have that feeling for a reason so listen to it.

Great post!

Jacki Semerau said...

Thanks Dave! I agree, often there's already significant damage done. But I think that's due to the fact that those of us that want to believe the best in people often try too hard to give the benefit of the doubt. And there's people out there that just don't deserve it.