Burning Bridges in DC = Gilligan’s Island
The Greater DC (also known as the DMV) is a small place, a one company town and almost like the show Cheers “Where Everybody Knows Your Name”…for better or worse. Much like dating, the workplace is all about finding the right fit and hoping it’s for the long term which I believe in DC is about two years. This is the only town where professional promiscuity is not only allowed but encouraged, however, when you do move to a new opportunity, it’s important that one doesn’t leave a blazer trail behind. You never know when you’ll need to walk across a bridge from the past only to remember that you spread a rumor (even if true) that will come back to haunt you. Here are some common situations and how to handle them:
Not responding to a prospective employer
In the 21st Century, they call this ‘Ghosting’ and it’s more commonly referred to in the dating scene but since we’re already mentioned dating above, it seems fitting. When an offer is made, there is an acceptance period and it can be one day, a week or maybe even longer depending on the circumstances. While you’re figuring out what to do with your life, it’s important to keep in contact with the prospective employer by asking questions or making comments should work from their organization appear in the public space. If you should choose not to take the position, respectfully decline of the offer and this doesn’t need to be in person or over the phone, an email will suffice (we don’t recommend this in the dating space!). By ghosting, the employer is left questioning what went wrong all the while, an important role is not being filled as lost productivity is adding up. We live in a time where it is all too easy to think of ourselves and walk away from opportunity but showing dignity and respect goes a long way. Depending on what space you work in, your reputation will follow and one can be sure that a ‘ghoster’ is known which could prevent future opportunities.
Giving your boss the finger
At some point, you will leave your current job for a new employer as such breakups are inevitable. There are always three things you don’t like about a job and when you get to the next, there will be three things there you don’t like as well. Whether your boss is unruly, a micromanager or at worst condescending, never take a point of personal privilege to tell the person off. Also, if an exit interview or survey is conducted, this is not the time to complain about all of the things wrong with the organization. A real leader would have given constructive feedback while on the job, not after because that’s the spirit of teamwork and helping others learn and grow. By going negative, you have to ask yourself what is to be gained. Burning bridges rarely makes sense. Leaving meaningful feedback is good but like a good campsite, leave the environment better than you found it. While the organization might be behind you, ensuring you added value and left it in a place to grow and create more value should always be the objective. Telling off a boss because you have some sort of emotional gasket that is about to blow will never serve either of you well. Just move on and let the cards lay where they may.
Spreading gossip online
Everything you write online, whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any other social media space is there forever. Heck, even your G-Chats and iMessages are stored somewhere in the universe. As I always say, don’t write anything you wouldn’t read out loud to your grandmother. Others say never to write anything you don’t want to be read back to you in court. Either way, be extra cautious in this space. Complaining about your organization to a friend or acquaintance might have merits but do it in person as you reason through the situation and come to feel differently about it with time. Text is static and concrete, never changing, unlike humans. Putting things in the public space is even scarier. Even a ‘Twitter battle’ might sound like a fun idea but the reality is a prospective employer may see this as combative behavior, maybe disrespectful or downright immature. As written in the 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene, Law 4 is ‘Always Say Less Than Necessary’. My view is you can think as you wish but you cannot offend by what you do not say.
Abruptly quitting without notice
Okay, DC is a fast moving place and sometimes great opportunities come up without notice. Most organizations in DC do not have an HR staff much less a robust operations team so when people leave, the gap has to be filled by others. It’s a common courtesy to give your employer two weeks before leaving and in turn, help other folks in the office hold down your position until they are able to fill it with like talent. Jumping ship with your oar will not only leave a sour taste in the mouth of your previous employer, they may become motivated to let others know this is your ‘style’. This approach is very short-sighted and even immature. Worst case scenario, if you had to quit in a quick manner, offer support outside of work hours during the week or even to come in on the weekend to make things right. Like an old significant other, they can hurt you if it’s in their interest. I’m not saying people are vindictive but who knows what someone’s motivation can become when they are wronged. Why take the chance to figure it out?
In the end, your history follows you and with Facebook and LinkedIn, there is always a digital footprint of where you have been. When it comes to calling a few references, you can’t hide from your reputation so live upstanding. I’m not saying to be faked to try and be liked by all, just know how to mind your Ps and Qs and think long term about your future instead of what’s immediate in front of you.