As some of you may have already heard, Greg Smith left Goldman Sachs, his employer of nearly 12 years. On his way out, he doused the bridge with lighter fluid and struck a match.
He burned his bridge with an op-ed in the New York Times, no less. His public resignation rippled throughout the land: every media organization covered the story – even Stephen Colbert. Clearly, Mr. Smith put on a quite a show – the flames went sky high.
As the title of our blog site suggests – and as we strongly assert throughout our posts – we believe that burning bridges is detrimental to your career and future employment. Relationships play a critical role in the workplace. There’s a reason everyone understands the oft-repeated phrase, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”
But, today, we step back from our usual cautionary advice and commentary to suggest that burning one’s bridge may be the right thing to do in certain circumstances. Let us repeat: It may be the right thing to do.
The decision to leave a job requires a good deal of thought and how one leaves a job requires even more consideration. In this case, Mr. Smith seems to have given it a good deal of thought.
He worked at this company for 12 years. Most people don’t up and leave a job of 12 years on a whim. You need the gumption to do it, especially to leave in the glare of the spotlight. And writing and pitching an op-ed for the New York Times doesn’t happen overnight.
They say that time heals all wounds and sometimes time heals the wounds and bruises of the workplace. If you want to leave your job, then plan it. Planning ensures you leave the way you want, but it also requires you to stop, calm down and think clearly. Mr. Smith left with a plan and his thoughtfully written op-ed proves it.
In fact, we bet that there’s more to his announcement than meets the eye. Our hunch is that a book deal is in the works as well as a flurry of prime-time interviews. You don’t publicly thumb your nose at one of the most powerful financial firms in the country without having a carefully crafted exit strategy.
While Mr. Smith burned the bridge with Goldman Sachs, he probably did not burn bridges with former or future clients. He clearly defined his values and work ethic, and framed it as a choice he had to make rather than remain and continue screwing over his clients.
It appears that a lot of thought went into this decision, both the decision to leave and the decision about how to leave. While we would not recommend this departure strategy for most people, we do applaud the fact that he gave it a lot of thought and, most likely, considered all of his options.
Take a look at his editorial and let us know if you think he did the right thing.