I’ve noticed something very interesting about this industry. Over the years I’ve tended to run into the same people over and over again. They might have changed companies, I might have changed jobs, but then I run into that person again.
In a way, it’s a comfort. It’s nice to see old friends. But it’s also a bit weird. If I move into a different context, shouldn’t a whole new set of acquaintances come along with it? It seems that people who are well-connected seem to be connected in multiple ways, and well-connected people have a significantly higher chance of being noticed than the rest of us who are not. I’m sure it’s also true that I would tend to quickly notice a familiar name amongst a sea of unfamiliar names – humans are absolutely amazing pattern-matching machines. The other thing I’ll observe is that in the work context, there’s a significant chance of working closely with a person over and over again over the course of many years. Even, surprisingly, cross-company.
Which (whew!) brings me to my point. When you have to sever a relationship – even when you’re assigned to a different group, for instance – it’s never a good idea to behave in a way which will make the other person think less of you. There’s a surprisingly high chance that in the future you might work for them, they might work for you, or you might have to collaborate together. And do you really want old baggage affecting that new relationship?
I’ve had this vividly – sometimes painfully – demonstrated to me at the personal level. Most of the time I’ve been lucky, but it’s reinforced to me that I never ever want to make enemies, even if it would be weirdly fulfilling to do so. And I don’t even want to leave a sour impression.
Which means being supportive and professional even to the end of the relationship. And beyond – remember, you do have an effect on others around you.