Don’t Burn Bridges

We have a great guest post from Go Finance Yourself!

 

Our guest blogger started Go Finance Yourself as a way to keep himself accountable to his financial goals and pass on the knowledge that has helped him grow his wealth and onto the path to FIRE. He fully believes that money does not lead to happiness, but it does lead to more control over your life, which creates happiness. He’s a big advocate of working hard because no one owes you anything. He believes that luck, or at least what others perceive to be luck, comes to those who work the hardest.

bridge

Don’t Burn Bridges

 

First of all, I would like to thank Mr. Mustard Seed for giving me an opportunity to do a guest post on his blog. Mustard Seed Money will always hold a special place in my heart as he was the very first person to leave a comment on my blog. As a new blogger, it’s a great thrill when you receive your first comment. In some aspects, you feel legitimized because someone took the time to recognize your post and leave a comment. So for that, Thank You Mustard Seed! Now onto the post.

 

My initial job out of college was working as an auditor at a large CPA firm. It’s a great experience as you’re basically forced to drink from a fire hose when you first start and are thrown into the fire. It’s also a highly intense and stressful working environment with a very high turnover rate. Because of this, tensions can run high.

 

There was one partner that I spent a large amount of time working with. We’ll call her Amy. Working with Amy could be difficult at times as she was easily stressed out and was not very mature considering her experience and status within the company. Amy was also very passive aggressive. She would never tell you to your face if she had a problem with you. But she would tell everyone else behind your back.

 

Difficult Times

 

I managed to stay on Amy’s good side throughout the first three years of my career. Then, my fourth year was a bit more difficult. This just so happened to coincide with when our business began to be impacted by the Great Recession. It was also a difficult year for me as I was trying to take on more responsibility in order to get promoted to manager a year early. To do this, I was taking on any manager jobs I could.

 

Here’s a quick overview for those of you who have not been introduced to the world of public accounting. The senior is running the day-to-day operations of the audit at the client’s site and overseeing a staff of 2-3 newbies. The manager is in more of a review position and therefore isn’t required to be at the client’s site throughout the entire engagement.

 

One of my worst two week experiences as a professional came during that year. Due to another manager saying she would do one thing and then doing another, I was stuck with an impossible situation. In one week I was scheduled to be in Chicago at training. I also had an audit engagement that I was managing that week, and another engagement that I was the senior on.

 

Suck it Up

 

There is no sympathy in the world of public accounting. I just had to make it work. So while everyone else was going out for drinks in Chicago after a full day of training, I headed back to my hotel room to work on both engagements into the wee hours of the morning. Nothing, however, was good enough for Amy. It was a stressful year in our business and she took that stress out on the people around her. In this case, I was her whipping boy. At the end of the week, while she was reviewing the engagement that I was the senior on, she made a wrong call that resulted in us (by us I mean me) having to do three more days’ worth of testing. I knew it was incorrect, and made my case. But in the end, she was the partner and won out.

 

At the end of the engagement, we had a second partner from another office review because it was a high risk engagement. We were all sitting in a conference room at the client’s office. When he got to the section of the audit where I had performed three days’ worth of additional testing, he blurted out, “Why in the hell did we do all this testing?” Amy didn’t say a word, and I looked like the fool who didn’t know what he was doing.

 

Staying Resilient

 

There were many difficult situations like this one throughout the year. But, in spite of it all, I had what I thought was a really good year. Every single one of my evaluations was very good, and I had spent the year working on the company’s most complex audit engagements. I felt for sure that I was in line for an early promotion to manager.  

 

Then, Amy inexplicably trashed me during the annual review process at the end of the year. Again, not to my face but to the other people in the firm that carry big sticks. My career advisor at the time, another partner, was shocked. When we met he said, “I don’t understand it. All your reviews were great. I hadn’t heard one single bad thing all year.”

 

My yearly evaluation came back as just average, and there was no early promotion in line for me. I was pissed! I had been working by butt off to take on more responsibility and was always assigned to the most complex engagements. My job evaluations were great and I believed I would be promoted. Wrong!

 

I thought about leaving. Why should I bust my ass trying to make her life easier when she was just going to hold me down? In the end, I decided to stay. I had set a goal to make manager, and I wasn’t going to let one petty person stop me from doing it. The following year, I was promoted and we ended up having a decent working relationship after that.

 

Keeping The Bridge Intact

 

When I finally left the world of public accounting after nine years, I continued to stay in touch with Amy. Shortly after leaving, she reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in any opportunities she had come across. I wasn’t looking, and by no means wanted to get back into the interview game. Then she mentioned that one of her client’s was looking for a CFO. Why didn’t you tell me that in the first place?! This would be a huge jump in my career to earn a CFO position at the age of 33.

 

Three months and eight rounds of interviews later, I was offered the job. It has turned out to be even better than I originally anticipated. As I’ve mentioned several times on my blog, I’m lucky to work for a company that is a true meritocracy. There is no petty BS to hold you down. No office politics to deal with. None! Show up, leave the drama behind, get your work done, create value for the company, and in turn create value for yourself.

 

I think back to that rough year I had working with Amy quite often. My working life was a living hell and it spilled into my personal life as well. I vented plenty on my wife after long days of dealing with BS.  I often think about just how close I was to phoning it in. Taking the easy route of quitting, telling her to F off, and going somewhere else. But I stuck it out, met with her face to face, and talked through our issues like adults. And it earned me a shot at my dream job, which I was able to nail down. Without her recommendation, I would have never gotten my foot in the door.

 

Takeaways:

 

  1. Don’t burn bridges. You never know when you might need to cross that bridge in the future.
  2. Be an adult. If someone has a problem with you, or you with them, talk about it face to face like grownups. Often times, there are plenty of misunderstandings along the way that can easily be cleared up through a conversation in person.
  3. Don’t let someone else keep you down. I could have taken the easy road and left the company. Had I done that, who knows where I would be today? Definitely not in the position I am now. Be resilient, and don’t let others hold you back.

Mustard Seed Money

Welcome to the website. A mustard seed is a very small seed but astonishingly grows very large over time. My hope is that through your financial journey that your small investment in time, money and faith will grow beyond anything that you could ever imagine.

37 Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing your story. I’m glad things ended up working out so well for you, and you’re right, burning bridges and getting revenge never accomplishes anything. Having said that, unfortunately things don’t always turn out so well. I am very close to two people that were in very similar situations to yours. Both sucked it up and kept doing their job (although vented a lot to me). One ended up finding a new job because he was pretty sure his contact want going to be renewed because of lies from one individual. The other person I knew had her position ‘eliminated’. So, that’s not to say that your points aren’t valid- they are! Just, sometimes crap still happens. And who knows, maybe 10 years from now these two people will be far happier because they left their old jobs.
    Daniel Palmer recently posted…How to Save for the Retirement of Your DreamsMy Profile

    • Thank so for sharing your thoughts Daniel. I think the main takeaway isn’t so much that I decided to stay, but rather why I decided to stay. During this time I talked with a former colleague who got me to realize that part of the reason I was thinking about leaving was so I could stick it to Amy. She was the one driving my decision. Had I left I would have gone to another public accounting firm and likely found another Amy. When I finally did leave, it was because I realized I didn’t want to be a partner and didn’t want to do that work for the rest of my career.

      If you’re stuck with an Amy, don’t leave because of them. Leave because you have a better opportunity somewhere else. And of course, always leave on good terms. You never know when you might run into Amy or some she knows in your career again.

  2. Great points! I’ve worked with thousands of people over my career. Some I’ve liked and some I’d rather never see again. But I never burn bridges. You never know when that relationship could help or come back to hinder you. I’ve had people I’ve worked with in other jobs end up reporting to me randomly. I’ve ended up with a boss that I worked with as a colleague at a different company. You never know.
    FullTimeFinance recently posted…Dealing With The Sophomore SlumpMy Profile

    • Thanks FTF. It’s really tempting to tell someone like Amy to F off. It sounds great when you’re rehearsing it in your head. But there’s just no reason to do it when there’s any chance it could harm you in the future. Now once you obtain FU money, then by all means, let them have it 🙂

  3. GFY, I had the same feeling too when I got my first comment from a fellow personal finance blogger. MSM, is also the first commenter on my blog and that made my day when I saw that in my dash board. I’ve never had the opportunity to thank MSM, yet. So thank your MSM, your comment provide me with the motivation to strive for relevancy in the PF space.

    Thanks for this encouraging post FGY, it definite gives me a better perspective on the issue that I am dealing at work too. What doesn’t bring you down will make you stronger. I am glad that it did. Hopefully, my situation can make me stronger too.
    Leo T. Ly @ isaved5k.com recently posted…The Fourth Step To Saving A Million DollarsMy Profile

  4. After setting early retirement plan, one can avoid a lot of troubles by climbing company laddar.There are a lot of things we need to care about, for example, investment, family, hobby. Completing daily job well because of salary; developing other skills with free time for the future.

  5. Great story Go-Finance-Yourself. That’s amazing to be C-suite at 33, especially coming from outside of the firm!! Congrats!

    I like your 3rd point. The first two are great advice, but the third is what takes the cake. Being able to take control of a situation for yourself and rise above is an incredibly valuable skill to have. At the end of the day, you never know who could help you. Your network is your net worth!!! 🙂
    Erik @ The Mastermind Within recently posted…eMentor Meet-up – Mentoring a High School StudentMy Profile

    • Thanks Erik! Rising above petty BS is something we all have to do from time to time in our lives. I’m glad I decided to work it out and stick through it. Definitely one of those turning points I look back on and realize how much different my life would probably be right now had I ran from the issue to another company that likely had another Amy.

  6. Wowza!! Congrats on scoring that CFO position; that’s quite a feat at such a young age! My mom was an accountant so I feel for you. It’s an incredibly stressful job and I don’t think many people realize that.

    I got my current job just by staying in touch with an old coworker (who I admittedly don’t like). If you stay professional good things can come to you. However, I’m trying to be less of a pushover, because there are times when you have to push back against really awful people at work. I have my own “Amy” at work and she is intolerable. I try to be as professional as possible.
    Mrs. Picky Pincher recently posted…Good Marketing Strikes AgainMy Profile

    • Thanks Picky Pincher. I definitely don’t miss this time of year in public accounting. Deadlines out the wazoo, 90 hour weeks, numerous partners breathing down my neck. It’s a rough existence for sure.

      It’s a fine line to walk when it comes to not being a pushover. Especially if it’s someone with some clout in the organization. Best approach I’ve found is just sit down and talk to them face to face. It’s not fun, but having one difficult conversation is a lot better than bearing the difficulties that will keep coming your way if not dealt with.

    • Yep. I’ve kept in touch with several colleagues who jumped to another firm and they all end up being the same. Sh*t rolls downhill in any professional services firm. If you can get to the top of the hill quickly it can be a pretty good gig. But the way up can get pretty nasty.

      I’m a big believer that we all control our own destinies. Some start out with more advantages than others, but the opportunities are there if you want to work for them.

  7. Thanks for sharing. I think if you’ve working in the corporate world you’ve dealt with an Amy. I know I have. You showed great resiliency,which Amy recognized. It’s so important to grow a strong network these days. Both to help an be help from.
    Brian recently posted…Money Saving Tools for ChildrenMy Profile

    • Very true. The Amy’s are abundant in the corporate world. Networking is huge. I try to keep in touch with as many former colleagues as I can. I’ve given advice to several of them on their career and shared my thoughts and experiences thus far and what I would do differently.

  8. This is great stuff! I do think 99% of the time there are always office politics to deal with, and it behooves you to learn how to deal with people, and work on yourself and how to handle stressful situations as best you can. Not put up with abuse or a super toxic work environment, but your average run of the mill work stuff. Congrats on the position!
    Tonya@Budget and the Beach recently posted…Being BoldMy Profile

    • Good point Tonya. You’re going to run into a lot of different types of people in your career. Some people hate drama and just want to show up and do work. Others create chaos even where they go and blame others for it. Learning to deal with all sorts of people, be it as a subordinate or superior, has been a big help in my career.

  9. Awesome story and great advice. I often say that burning bridges is like shooting yourself in the foot. I have left many jobs in the past and each time I left on good terms and gave a pleasant exit interview, even if I didn’t mean it. Why? Because my industry (as with any industry) is small, especially nowadays with social media like LinkedIn. If you’re planning on moving up in your field, it’s extremely important to heed your stellar advice.
    Mad Money Monster recently posted…Who’s Still Kicking @$$ And Taking Names in 2017?My Profile

    • Thanks Mad Money. There’s just no reason to ever burn bridges. It may make you feel good in the short term to tell someone off but all it can do is hurt you in the long run. Definitely don’t want to make a bad name for yourself in a world where news travels very quickly.

    • Thanks Gary. It’s tough avoiding the Amy’s of the world be it professional or personal world. Dealing with them is tough but your only other option is to keep on complaining about them!

  10. This is so true. You never know who you might be working with again some day or who you might need as a connection. Good things to keep in mind if you have to leave a company too, it is much better to leave under good circumstances than walking off the job and leaving a bad taste in their mouth.

  11. Great post! It’s so true, everything comes down to networking and keeping good professional relationships. You never know who is watching you, who their connections might be, and what they are willing to say about you to strangers. My favorite book last year was Stealing the Corner Office and one of the topics discussed is to always keep a positive attitude and never join your co-workers in talk bad about anyone.
    Stuart @ Epic Quiver recently posted…MY 4 YEAR ADVENTURE AS A PEER 2 PEER LENDERMy Profile

    • Thanks Stuart. I’ll have to check out that book. That’s good advice on not bad mouthing others, and especially don’t do it to your subordinates if you’re a manager. Amy would often bad mouth others to me and I always thought it was super unprofessional.

  12. This is a amazingly inspiring story and I truly appreciate the take on inter office politics. I work at an extremely political company and everything has to be all puppies and rainbow, which is etremely challenging when you work in a lean environment and your job is to say stuffs broken and the people who created it bad mouth you because it was their pet project. It’s great to see that there are people out there who have been through something similar and come out ahead!

    • Thanks Duncan. That’s a difficult situation to be in. No one likes to have their work put down, even if it is true. How you present something makes all the difference. You can’t control how someone hears your message but you can control the way you present it to them.

  13. I have tried to not burn bridges, but there are managers in my past that I would not work for again.
    My last job I stayed because of pride and ego. I moved out of my home state for the job and didn’t want to give up or fail or admit I’d made a bad decision.
    With time / distance, I now think that job could have killed me. It drained my life energy like a dementor. I was not a very nice person to be around. Why bother dating, if I didn’t like being around me at the end of the day, why would anyone else? I had burnt friends out with my complaints yet lack of changing anything and almost lost friends because of it. I now see my dynamic with my parents ws affected similarly, but they are stuck with me. I was sick more often working there, bad colds, bronchitis, the flu really bad. And just a feeling of not being actually sick, but not being well.
    I’ve been at my current job for 18 months and haven’t gotten sick like that. Sure an occasional cold, but no bronchitis! 🙂 My relationships have bounced back. I am a happier person, and I like this! (My friends do too).
    Knowing the signs now, it would not be worth it for me to stick it out at a place like that for networking reasons.
    My industry you definitely end up working with people again, or meeting someone who knows someone else. Vendors are often regional, even if you have moved away. As the saying goes, if you don’t have something nice to say…, I find something nice to say about the person. There was a vendor repair guy who could both talk your ear off at the end of the day, and spent the day on his blue tooth. But he always showed up on the scheduled day, completed the repairs and gave tips and tricks to help before calling for service. The second part is what I’d tell people who had also met him, they know the other parts.
    I’m so glad you sticking it out really helped your career. 🙂

    • Thanks for sharing your perspective Jacq!!! It’s definitely not easy sticking with a job especially if it’s making you sick. Sounds like you are in a much better situation now and made it through without burning any bridges and more importantly reconnecting with some special people in your life 🙂

    • Thanks Jacq. Doesn’t sound like my situation was nearly as bad as yours. I liked my job overall, just had a difficult time with one person that was in a key position. I wouldn’t ever recommend sticking it out for networking reasons, especially if you were that miserable. I ended up sticking it out because I knew I would be leaving for the wrong reasons, which would be to stick it to this one person. I likely would have burned that bridge to the ground too as I wasn’t happy with her at the time. But if everything about your job is making you miserable, not just one difficult person, then I would say definitely move on. Glad you’re in a much better situation now.

  14. I’ve worked in public accounting most of my career until I recently made the switch to private industry. As such, I’ve also worked with partners like Amy. Deciding to stay says so much more about who you are as a person. I’m with you….stay true to your values and goals and don’t let one person change that. Great story and takeaways!

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