Every day you encounter people and situations either positive or negative that demand that you take actions and make decisions. Because many people are away on vacation in the summer, there may be fewer people available to do the work in your team, office or business. Those who are not taking vacations this summer may be assuming a far greater workload than they are used to or are able to handle on top of their own workload. If you are or will be finding yourself in this situation of taking on the work of your colleagues or team members this summer, it is important that you stop and think about whether the action you are about to take or the decision you are about to make will be building or burning bridges. When you act or decide on behalf of another person or group of people, you must be careful, thoughtful and respectful. You must put yourself in their shoes and think about how they would handle this person or situation. While your thoughts or feelings are important, you need to put them aside. This is not about you, it is about doing what is best and making sure that when the person or people whom you are replacing return from vacation it is as if they had never left at all. When you are overworked and overwhelmed, you can get rushed and rattled and what comes out of your mouth or on the screen in words and sentences as damaging or inappropriate in a matter of minutes can take months or years of concerted effort to repair. The ideal scenario would be that the individuals that you are kindly covering for return from their vacation to find their clients/customers and colleagues singing your praises and that you have not only maintained the bridges that have already been built but also built more bridges to new clients/customers and colleagues.
Have you ever made a commitment in your personal or professional life only to find that when the time comes you have little or no interest in fulfilling this commitment or worse you have replaced it with another commitment? Before you cancel on your family member, friend, client/customer or colleague, ask yourself: am I building or burning bridges with this individual? People often don’t remember what you did or said yet they often remember how they felt as a result. If you think that the individual will feel hurt, angry, insulted or hold a grudge, you may want to see what can be negotiated so that the bridge between you remains intact or even better is strengthened.
If it is a business commitment that you have made and now want to renege on, are you willing to damage your reputation or lose the trust and business of this longstanding client/customer because of this one situation? Make sure that you think through the short-term and long-term consequences of your actions. Put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself again: Am I building or burning bridges? Then make a decision that will not only feel right now but also in the future.
At the end of the day, you may decide that there are bridges that need to be burned rather than built or strengthened. These are connections with toxic people and situations that are harmful to you both personally and professionally. Burn these bridges, sever the ties and commit to never looking back with a moment of regret. Instead, focus on looking forward to all of the bridges you will build in the future with strong, supportive and successful people and situations.