Build Bridges, Don’t Throw Bombs

Today is Friday, so this post is on interpersonal competence.

A recent column in the Wall Street Journal called Exit Your Current Job by Building Bonds, Not Lobbing Bombs made a very interesting point.  “Leaving well is a basic career competency.  If you leave on a high note with connections that are real and true, you create opportunities for yourself down the road.”

I’m living proof of this.  I worked for a Fortune 50 company from 1983 till 1988 when I let to begin my consulting business.  Two years later, a chance meeting with a former colleague and friend led to a small consulting project.  That one project led to a sizeable amount of business over the next 15 years. 

The interesting thing here is that I didn’t plan it this way.  My good fortune came from the fact that I try to befriend everybody I meet.  This relationship building attitude has paid off handsomely for me.  I now have clients who are in senior positions at that company who I knew when they were just starting out.  In fact, one of them told me that he has hired me because he was impressed with the manner in which I treated him when he first joined the company.

To me, this is simple common sense; although it may go against human nature at times.  In our day to day lives, we are bound to encounter people who are less than nice to us.  Some may be downright nasty.  While I believe that it’s really important to rid yourself of these stress inducing, nasty people in your life, it’s equally as important to do it in such a way that you don’t offend them.

Here’s a real life example of where I svrewed up.  Many years ago, I was leaving a job.  I had some input into my replacement.  The person who was selected wasn’t even on my list of potential candidates.  I had known him for several years, and had participated in a number of cross divisional task forces with him.  When it came right down to it, I didn’t like him much as a person, and I didn’t respect him as a professional.  I made this known to the hiring manager.

But, he got the job.  Fast forward about seven or eight years.  I was a candidate for a job that was of some interest to me.  I was pretty sure I was going to get an offer.  In the third round of interviews, the guy for whom I would be working said, “I see you worked for such and such a company, do you know XXX?”  I said, “Sure, he was my replacement when I left that company.”

I didn’t get the job.  In fact, I never heard from them again.  When I followed up, the HR person told me that they had chosen another candidate. 

As I reflected on things, I realized that I had never built any bridges with the guy who followed me seven or eight years ago.  Worse than that, I’m sure that he learned that I didn’t support his candidacy and thought hiring him was a bad decision.  I also figured out that the hiring manager for the job for which I was interviewing, probably called him as soon as I left his office, wanting to check me out.  You can guess how that conversation went.

I lost that job because I didn’t build any bridges with my replacement.  In fact, I probably lobbed a couple of bombs his way.  The common sense point here is simple.  Old relationships can help or haunt you.  That’s why it makes sense to build positive relationships with the people in your life.  Be true to yourself; don’t befriend people just because you think they may be able to help you later in life.  On the other hand, treat all of the people in your life with the dignity and respect they deserve as fellow human beings.  Interpersonally competent people do – and that’s why they tend be successful in their lives and careers.

That’s it for today.  Thanks for reading.  Log on to my website to subscribe to my monthly ezine and for more common sense.  Check out my other blog: for common sense advice on leading people and running a small business.

I’ll see you around the web, and at Alex’s Lemonade Stand.


PS: Speaking of Alex’s Lemonade Stand – my fundraising page is still open.  Please go to to read Alex’s inspiring story and to donate if you can.

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