Don’t burn your bridges

My Grandmother would always say “it’s a small world”. I never fully grasped what this idiom meant until I entered the Civil Service.

The idiom refers to occasions when you discover that another person knows someone you also know. Or you have encountered a similar situation in an unexpected place.

I can recall when I first joined the Civil Service thinking the organisation was huge, because it employed over 40,000 people.  You interact with the people around you and move on, not expecting to meet them again.  Coming from a community that is underrepresented as employees with my organisation, I never expected to meet people with connections to other staff, but I was wrong.  I can recall on many occasions feeling flabbergasted when I met people who have heard about me from someone who worked in the organisation.  I have met individuals at social and professional events from different cultural and social backgrounds who have heard about my work from either colleagues or clients.

These encounters have made me appreciate the importance of good working relationships and when moving on leaving a positive legacy behind, because your reputation precedes you.  This introduces another idiom – don’t burn your bridges.  This is an important idiom to remember and adhere to in the corporate and public sector world. It simply means you should not create a situation where you cannot return to somewhere or to someone in the future.  There are exceptions to this rule because there are times for example, when you have no desire to return to an organisation because you may not agree with the company’s ethics or values.  So you will want to burn those bridges.  However, you should consider what burning the bridges mean.

It is a good idea to maintain your professionalism when leaving an organisation even if you are tempted to do otherwise.  Your reputation is what people remember, you may come across this individual(s) in the future.  Trust me! I have come across individuals from my past who I would have preferred not to have encountered, but thank goodness, I have been able to hold my head up high and conversate with dignity and ease, without feeling embarrassed or a shame of my past.

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