We’ve all heard the saying – don’t burn
a bridge – but can a bridge be rebuilt?
An old college friend was going through
a pretty tough time about three years ago. His wife asked him for a divorce
shortly after he experienced a death in the family while at the same time his
company was being acquired with his position in jeopardy. Needless to say, he
wasn’t in the best of moods, and his temper got the best of him. When
questioned by a member of the acquiring management team about his sales
performance, Bill took the tone and type of questioning very personally, and he
snapped back at this management team member. When further questioned by his
own, longtime manager, he commented about his displeasure with the line of
questioning and walked out of the meeting. His employment was immediately
Bill, believe it or not, while going
through a series of personal issues was able to land another sales position within
a few short weeks with another pharmaceutical company in Charlotte, NC. He
agreed to the terms of divorce with his now-ex-wife in a rather amicable
proceeding and he quietly began to rebuild his life.
Fast forward to now. Bill has an opportunity
to interview with a new pharmaceutical company in Raleigh, NC. His only
daughter moved there last year for school and this would be an opportunity not
only to advance his career, but also to be closer to her. But, low and behold,
he must interview with his former manager for the position. This is the person
for whom he turned his back on, walked out of the meeting, and had not spoken
to since then. Did I mention they had worked together for 10 years
Bill feels as though he not only burned
this bridge but that he may not be able to mend the relationship. My advice to
Bill was this…say you’re sorry. It’s that simple…apologize.
Bill has an opportunity to mend his
former relationship, but he must first admit his faults, and he must apologize.
He needs to bear his sole, so to speak, and he must explain what he was facing
on a personal level. Then, he must show how he has overcome these past
professional indiscretions, and he must showcase how he’s grown.
There is no guarantee that the bridge
burned can be rebuilt. And this does not always occur. But, coming to grips
with his own shortcomings and mistakes, admitting as much to his former
manager, may be what is necessary to move forward. If you’ve ever burned a
bridge and felt that you needed to rebuild it, consider the steps it will take
to make amends.