How to Avoid Burning Bridges at Work

Operations & Training

By Christin Myers, OpenWorks

Three tips to building long and lasting relationships with your boss, colleagues and franchise partners.

Over the course of our careers we will all encounter people we don’t immediately see eye to eye with. Perhaps this person is a challenging boss or an unfriendly coworker. This person might even have reported to you in some manner. In the moment, building the relationship with this person might be insignificant due to your mutual lack of respect. However, you never know what the future will hold. Often professional paths cross again in the future in the most unknown ways. Therefore, it is imperative you never burn a bridge.

Tip 1: Build a Meaningful Relationship With Your Boss

The relationship you have with your boss will determine your future within an organization. It is always a fine balancing act. You must prove your worth, prove you are an asset, and most of all, you must spark a connection without crossing this imaginary line. However, as we all know, that is often easier said than done. Some people just do not mesh; for whatever reason that may be. That is why building meaningful relationships with your boss will always weigh the heaviest upon you in the present moment. You boss can be your biggest advocate, or your biggest roadblock to success.

There are four key ways to quickly build rapport with your boss. The first way is to clearly set expectations with each other. There is a four-part process to setting proper expectations:

Establish what he/she would like to see from you in terms of productivity and results.

Have your boss clearly define what success looks like in your role over the long term.

Clearly define what you need from your boss to make it a successful partnership.

Define what professional success looks like to you in the long term.

If you can walk away with a clear roadmap of your role and responsibilities and understand what results you need to deliver to be successful, the relationship can be easily defined by measurable, attainable goals. Your objective is to execute on the commitments you made to your boss, which ensures he/she will become a supporter and advocate for you.

Tip 2: Create Lasting Professional Relationships With Your Colleagues

Some relationships are just difficult, there’s no way around it. It’s almost certain a few of those difficult relationships happen to be at work. We’ve all had a coworker who seemingly glares in your direction, steals your conference room, or acts as if you’re beneath them. Sure, the easiest thing to do is try to avoid them or attempt minimal contact without telling them to go away.

However, the sphere of professional relationships tends to be small. Like it or not, we all cross paths with people from our previous jobs. Often these former colleagues will appear in a different capacity than your prior relationship. What if grumpy Gary is your next executive director? He will certainly remember if you treated him in a negative manner.

If you can find a way to be cordial, or even kind to the most aloof coworkers it elevates any future potential relationship. There are two things to remember when dealing with an unfriendly coworker. Number one – you never know what is happening in their personal life which may affect their professional demeanor. Perhaps they have an ailing parent, or a sick child; or they are going through a tumultuous divorce. Understanding that every person’s personal story affects their professional story is paramount. Number two – try to find one thing to connect with them on. Maybe you like the same sports team or you’ve traveled to the same vacation destination. Maybe your children are the same age. If you can find one topic to casually speak about together, it will typical open new doors to other conversations.

Tip 3: Form Impactful Relationships with Your Clients and Franchise Partners

Our businesses depend on partnerships, but in the franchise world, it’s our lifeline. Our franchise partners are our business partners and we depend on one another for success. It’s a two-way street. Our business worlds also depend on building mutually beneficial relationships with our clients.

For these reasons, building and maintaining productive working relationships with both clients and franchise partners is critical. There are times when a customer we deal with shows signs of being picky or intolerable, and often we want to flee as soon as we feel the beginning of a rocky relationship. The same is true for a troublesome franchise partner. Angst among yourself, your clients or your franchise partners can quickly move from an internal conversation to an external one. If your clients or franchise partners have a poor experience with you or your organization one of the first things people do now is take to social media. The power of social influence is remarkable and gaining momentum every day. A negative review on your organization or you can have a rippling effect. That is why it is important to take pause and reflect on opportunities to build from these experiences before responding out of anger.

If we know one thing, it’s that it's a small world out there, particularly in the world of franchising. Building long and lasting relationships with your boss, colleagues and franchise partners are paramount because you never know where you will meet again or what Twitter feed you might end up on. 


Christin Myers is the Vice President of Strategic Business at OpenWorks, one of the fastest-growing commercial cleaning franchise operators in the United States.