Burn Those Bridges!

Written by Scott

Topics: Uncategorized

Conventional wisdom often isn’t, or at best is incomplete. Such is the case of the notion that you should not burn bridges, which, for the sake of this post, is in reference to business or employer relationships (but is certainly applicable in general). The fact is that there are times where bridges should absolutely be burned. In fact, some should be blown up!

In my experience, there are two main reasons to do so:

1. There are times where continuing a business relationship has a very real potential to do harm to your reputation, your business, and in extreme cases, your life.

In 2004 the business I was working for (I’d been there 5.5 years, which in the IT industry at the time–and even now–is a LONG time) was sold, and the new owner was…how should I put this…less than trustworthy both to our clients and to the employees. I stayed less than a year, and after I left, the exodus of longtime employees began. Within two years he was out of business, having drove into the ground a company that for 17 years was very stable and profitable. I left because I saw what was being done and the destructive nature of his “leadership”. As I’ve discovered since, clients saw it too. But I protected myself by not being a part of the problem. (This was a bridge blown up).

2. There are times when you have to stand up for yourself or your rights.

Oddly enough, I have another personal example. I worked over a Thanksgiving break to ensure a client’s Internet connection got switched over correctly. So that weekend I sent an email explaining this and said I would be taking Monday off. Monday, though, had a busy start, and I got a rather terse response demanding that I come into the office. I went into the office, not to work, but to turn in my keys. Here’s why: I was initially hired for sales, but over the 2 years there, I got to the point I was not only doing almost all the sales, quotes, and purchasing, but also was doing tech work at almost the same billable amount as the owner and the “tech”. There was an imbalance there. And for this particular incident, I worked over a holiday that other employees had off, and expected a fair trade for that time and interruption of my holiday.

My employment was officially “at-will”, which is almost always to the benefit of the employer. But I turned it around, and quit that day rather than giving notice. Did that burn a bridge? Yes, I’m sure it did. Was it necessary? I think it was. Was it unfortunate? Yes.

The key is to gauge how important a particular relationship is, especially compared to the risk or damage. Leave most bridges, try to only burn a few…and the really risky ones, blow up. Protect yourself.

  • I've been there myself recently. I have to agree with you Scott. Some bridges are made to be burned. The key is having the wisdom to know which bridges to burn, and not to scald others in the process.Sometimes you have to do what is best for yourself. And sometimes that means letting others know EXACTLY what you think, in the strongest way possible.