Consulting Fail: Burning Bridges

Written by lewsauder

September 12, 2011

Burning Bridges

Burning Bridges

At one point in my career, I worked for a top tier consulting firm that was acquired by another firm.  As happens in just about any merger or acquisition, management announced how great this would be for the future of the firm and that no layoffs were planned as a result of the acquisition.

Seven weeks later, to what should have been no one’s surprise, the acquiring firm saw that we had too many people on the bench and laid off anyone that was not assigned to a billable project.  Because I was between projects, I found myself in a partner’s office with an HR representative hearing of their regret that my employment had been terminated.

When I got home that day, I sent an email to all of the people that I had worked with or developed any type of relationship with at the firm.  I thanked them for any help they had given me and wished them, and the firm, well.

Bridging old relationships

I found a position with another consulting firm soon after that, and year or so later, I was assigned to be the project manager at a client project.  The client manager that I would report to just happened to be one of the people I had included in my farewell email.

If I had sent out an email trashing my former employer, she might have completely rejected me, and possibly my firm.  As it turned out, we developed a good working relationship over the next few of years over multiple projects.

In another job, I learned that one person that reported to me worked for the same major bank, on the same floor where I was consulting about 15 years earlier.  We worked with some of the same people and probably ran into each other in the hallway.  I’ve learned over the years that it’s a small world.  Even in a major city like Chicago, you run into the same people over and over.

Blowing off steam and burning bridges

I’ve heard stories of people who quit their jobs or get laid off and feel the need to blow off steam.  There are unfair employers to be sure.  Some mistreat their employees and unfairly throw them out on the street.  But there is nothing to be gained by blowing off steam as you walk out the door.

You may want to embarrass your new former employer, and you may succeed.  But you are more likely to embarrass yourself.  Worse yet, regardless of how strong of a reputation you may have created with your co-workers, the last thing they will remember about you at that employer is the negative taste you left with them by throwing a temper tantrum when you left.

See my related post: Professionalism in Consulting

Be professional

If you can’t bring yourself to say farewell in a professional manner, the next best thing to do is to leave quietly.  Maintain connections with your co-workers via LinkedIn or some other professional networking tool.  But leaving on a negative note may close doors that you need opened sometime down the road.

If you would like to learn more about working in consulting, get Lew’s book Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting at

As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms.

Lew’s Books at Amazon:

Project Management 101
Consulting 101
The Reluctant Mentor

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