There comes a point in business when relationships end. It could be due to wrongdoing or simply outgrowing. Sometimes it’s because you end it and sometimes it’s because someone else does. How it ends though, can make all of the difference, not only to your reputation, but your bottom line, future connections, and business opportunities.
While it can be tempting (and let’s face it in some cases completely justified) to say exactly what you feel and burn bridges behind you, if you are wise, you will try to end every relationship as amicably as possible. By leaving the bridge intact, even if a little rocky, you at least still have the option to pass by again in the future if you ever need to.
In case you’re not convinced, here are some of the dangers you can face when burning bridges – regardless of whether you are in the right or the wrong.
1. The business world is small
While it can often seem as though you are dealing with a person or business in isolation, it is rarely true. The business world is small, and it’s made even smaller with online communities.
People are well connected and often with people you least expect. You never know who knows who and what influence the person you are dealing with may have over their connections now or further down the track. You also never know what future opportunities could be missed or tainted because of a strained relationship or conflict.
2. Everyone talks to someone
Everyone has at least one confidant, a sounding board who helps them work through their challenges. If you are lucky, then it is only one person, but if the situation is heated or interesting enough, it can spread like wildfire. Suddenly a lot of people know – or think they know – what has happened before you've even had a chance to share your side.
The trouble with conflict, bad news and scandals is that it’s juicy, it spreads wide and fast, and can take longer to die down than good news. When you decide to burn bridges and react instead of respond, you never know who is behind the person you are having challenges with. Whose ear they are whispering in, what they are saying or increasingly, what they will write on social media.
3. What you do and say can be held against you
When you are angry or upset, it can be easy to say things you either don't mean or would normally leave unsaid. But a moment really can change everything. You never know who may be watching, listening or reading and what opinion they can form of you based on that one experience with you or impression of you.
While it is important to keep things in writing, be mindful that your tone, emphasis, and intent can and will often be misconstrued. Before you send anything ask yourself, is this a good representation of my character and what I stand for? Could this have legal ramifications? Would I be happy for this to be made public?
4. Who you burn on the way up, can burn you on the way down
In business, there are never any guarantees. You can have a booming business one day and the next, due to circumstances that may or may not be in your control, end up right back where you started.
You never know when you will need a relationship or connection again, this is why it is so important to maintain relationships at all levels of your business journey.
Yes, relationships will end, and you will outgrow suppliers, associates, and even customers. Just make sure it is done without ego or high emotion, because if you do fall, you normally see or need to lean on the same people as you climb back up.
There is no question that in business, there will be times where you will have to stand up to injustice, defend your position and point or view, and even burn a bridge or two. When you do though, do it with the full knowledge of how it will affect you and your business now, and how it could affect you in the future.