Ending Professional Relationships: When, Why and How to do it without Burning Bridges
Sometimes, a burning bridge is a gift. Ending a personal relationship with someone who’s been Gaslighting you until you’re questioning your sanity…bring on the gasoline and light that fucker up.
But when the relationship is professional, and because of the ‘there’s-always-two-sides’ rule and the fact that people talk, you should definitely leave the gasoline at home. Granted, there may be a situation where a little smoke on the bridge can be helpful to put things in perspective. If you’re willing to take that risk, be sure you have an extinguisher as a back-up.
There could be a time when you show up and find the other person brought a flamethrower to the negotiation party. What you have to understand is: that’s their fire. You are under no obligation to fan the flame.
When dealing with parting ways with folks who are capable of impacting your reputation, tread carefully. I offer two stories:
I was asked to co-author a story, as suggested by the spouse of someone who had been a friend/peer. The spouse be-friended me and several of my friends and hanging out exclusive of the writer/peer was fun…for a while. Eventually the spouse starting becoming a pest to my other friends. All involved parties asked me for advice and though I just didn’t see the behaviors others saw, I tried to balance and mediate and ended up in the middle – where I did NOT want to be. Too soon, the spouse’s behavior that had left my friends exasperated began to manifest directed toward me. I could no longer maintain a friendship with the spouse, and tried to quietly separate myself from the personal/friend part of that couple. As I feared, it cost me the writer/peer part as well, and the year’s worth of work that went into that really good novel idea is a casualty neither of us can heal or work with. Ever.
I tried so hard to save that bridge, but the gasoline kept fueling it and in the end...it wasn't my fire. If someone else wants the bridge destroyed, all you can do is walk away and let them roast their marshmallows.
Had I kept that professional relationship completely professional with both the other writer and their spouse, y’all would have that great novel instead of my contribution to it gathering cobwebs in a mental junk drawer.
I used to have an agent. Said agent became sluggish about returning emails (as in months at a time) and things I was told would be done just weren’t done. Staff at agent’s agency made some blunders, which I politely brought to agent’s attention and asked for a change to be made. Months later, I had received neither an apology nor a confirmation that the correction had been made. (Honestly, either would have sufficed; both would have been monumental.) I felt that this was the time for a separation to occur. I wrote a polite letter and made extra sure to keep the tone friendly. Sure, I felt unimportant and ignored. Sure, it stung. Sure, it made me feel like maybe me getting published had been a wild dream I never deserved. (That may be BS left over from the gaslighting I endured.) But the truth was, I didn't have to sprinkle drama all over that shit. It's business. I do what's right for me, aware that they sure as Hell are going to do what's right for them. Nothing personal on either end of the equation.
The letter was emailed and sent via certified mail. And I keep moving forward as best I can.
THE POINT: The Business of Writing and Publishing is a business.
It isn’t personal. i.e. He/She doesn’t like me.
It’s a business. i.e. He/She can’t do/isn’t doing the job. I’ll focus on finding someone who can/is doing the job.
You do need a thick skin to be in this business.
That said, there are innumerable authors, agents, editors and publishers. Doubtless, there are ones that you or I won’t like, and equally doubtless there are many more that you and I will like. You have to get out there and meet them to find out! And if you’re not hitting it off with this one or that one, don’t give up. Meet more. Odds are you’ll find kindred spirits if you keep trying. And, as someone who has found many friends among the kindred spirits, I can say that learning the lessons of the few who haven’t remained friends only makes me stronger, my skin thicker, and those friends I have found closer.