Infinite Bridges

He stepped into my office and closed the door.

This was a bad sign. Any time one of your direct reports quietly comes it and closes a door, you know it's bad news.

"What's up?" I say.

"You're going to be mad at me." He replies.

Yep. Bad news - but at least, this statement reduces my anxiety: I can infer some context; It's not personal, it's not health related, it's not a family-event. He's probably moving on...

"Are you about to resign?" I ask, to cut the tension.

"I...didn't expect you to ask so bluntly..."

"You've lined up a new role though, right?" I reply, with the tone of a concerned parent.


"Cool, tell me about it..."

He proceeds to tell me the role, what it offers.

"That sounds great, I can see how that would be a big move for you. Just so I make sure - you're committed to this decision, right? I mean, based on what you described, I'm assuming you're not here to negotiate..."

"No, I think this is kind of my dream job - at least for now. I've loved working here, but it's not my long term goal."

"I get it - so why would I ever be mad at you?"

"I know the pressure it puts on you and the team..."

"That's my job to worry about not yours - I appreciate your concern, but I'd never be mad at you making what was obviously a tough decision."

"But, it messes up the project timeline..."

"Don't worry about that - if I wasn't already accounting for the risk of you leaving, I'd be a terrible manager. I have contingency plans - it doesn't mean you're easily replaced, don't get me wrong. You're leaving big shoes to fill - but you've been here 19 months...that's right on average when people usually leave a company."

"So you're not mad?" he says, laughing.

"I'd only be upset if you were leaving without another role lined up - or if you were going someone worse. In those cases, you're basically saying you're miserable here. But you're taking a big step up, and going to a place that's going to be great for you. It would be incredibly selfish of me to take that personally. I guess I do wish you'd let me know you were looking, so I could have helped you get the best possible role - but it sounds like you didn't really need my help anyway."


Some years later he calls me to let me know about the new role he's landed. It sounds really cool. We're both giggling like excited middle-schoolers. I'm just as excited for him as if it were my own news.

We're both older now. We haven't kept as in touch as we'd promised when we both agreed to "not be strangers" - but we've still chatted on occasion.

It's unlikely our paths will physically cross again given he lives hundreds of miles away. Despite that, a bridge that's never burnt spans any distance.


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