I have often shared with others on our team to not burn bridges – you might have to walk over them some day.
Even as a young professional, I was mindful of handling situations that could jeopardize a relationship. I think it was a good practice back then, and still is today. Burning bridges is not always an instant firestorm. It often happens over time.
Here are a few ways that people can burn bridges without even realizing it:
- Conflict Avoidance
With over 27,000 clients and 1,040 employees, we have countless touch points and plenty of opportunities for conflict to arise. Not taking the time to resolve an issue with a client, a prospect or colleague can burn a bridge. It’s important to take ownership – no matter who’s at fault. The point here is, don’t avoid the conflict. Not every situation is resolved favorably for all parties, but you do need to address it or the outcome probably won’t be in your favor.
- Being a Poor Loser
I don’t like losing either and I get it that our team is disappointed when we lose a sale. Of course, we always feel like we are the better choice. But how we walk away matters. A while ago, we had an employee write a negative letter to a board that selected our competition, outlining why we were the better choice. In this case, we burned a bridge that kept us out of the account for many years. It made us look bad. Whether you win or lose, walking away with humility and integrity is important.
- Not Giving People the Time
As a young sales guy, I can list the many people who opened their doors to meet with me and gave me a chance. I also remember those that didn’t. Today I see my son, Ryan, requesting the same courtesy as a Marco copier sales representative. Not giving people time or missing appointments can hurt you later. You never know how your paths may cross again in the future.
Going above or around your identified contact can also have an impact on a relationship. You may think you are getting more leverage, but no one likes to be overstepped. Vaulting can be effective in business, but be very careful. There’s a better chance of burning a bridge.
What takes years to build can be dismantled with one wrong move. How we act at our worst defines how people see us. The best way I have found to avoid burning bridges may sound cliché: Treat others how you would like to be treated. It’s also good to compromise and remain humble.