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Quitting Time

post # 70 — May 7, 2006 — a Careers, Client Relations post

Being good at relationships means more than knowing how to start them and maintain them. It also means knowing when and how to end them.

The time will come – you will find yourself in the wrong job (or working for the wrong client, or even employing the wrong person) and will need to break off the relationship. How you do it matters.

Maybe you are not the one who is initiating the separation, but you can see it coming. In such a case, remember the old slogan “If they are going to run you out of town, dash to the front and lead the parade.”

If you suspect the other person is wondering whether or not they want to stay in the relationship with you, you don’t want to be caught holding on desperately. Assuming you have made reasonable efforts to make the relationship work, you’ll have a lot more options (and make better decisions) if you take the initiative.

Take charge and get out as soon as possible. People will often be grateful if you save them the awkwardness of ending a bad relationship. It’s better to plan your exit when you are the one choosing the timing and the style of the separation.

It is often tempting, once you have decided to move on, to switch off or wind down – to give up working on your relationship with your employer, client or employee. Don’t. Do your best right to the end. Regardless of what happened before, or how long you were together, you will be remembered most for the way you leave a relationship.

If you have to divorce (a client or a spouse or even an employee), there’s no point sniping. Resist the temptation to tell people what you really think of them and why – even if you have lots of good arguments and just cause.

Remember that friends come and go, but enemies accumulate. Be kind, say thank you for the good parts and move on. Why make an awkward situation worse?

Avoid burning bridges. It’s more noble – and better for you – just to walk away, head held high, mouth shut. You’ll be glad you did it that way.

1 Comment

Bill Peper said:


This is an incredibly important topic, and it is too bad that it has not generated more discussion.

Focusing on the last point of this blog, I believe a critical skill to learn and practice often is to give up the natural tendency of proving to the world you are right in every circumstance. It takes maturity to hold back criticism when providing the criticism will not make any difference aside from its cathartic effect on you.

Susan Page, truly a relationship guru who addresses this topic well in several of her relationship books, argues that focusing on “I am right” — even if objectively true — is a dead-end decision. Other than the satisfaction of knowing you are right, the position will not change anything. Yes, your boss is objectively a jerk. So what? A much more productive attitude is “what can I do to improve the situation, given what has happened?”

posted on May 11, 2006