SURVEY SAYS: Burning Bridges

A familiar saying is “Don’t burn any bridges,” but sometimes emotions get in the way and make it hard.

Last week, I asked NewsDash readers if they have quit or been fired or let go from a job, and was it amicable, or did they “burn bridges.”

Nearly 89% of responding readers said they had quit or been fired or let go from a job, while 11.1% have not.                  

Thinking about their worst job exit, more than one-quarter (25.7%) of respondents said they handled the situation amicably, while 22.9% indicated they handled it slightly less than amicably. More than 11% subtly made negative feelings known, and 5.7% expressed negative feelings, and maybe even did something vengeful. Only 8.6% of responding readers said they completely burned all bridges. More than one-quarter (25.7%) said they have not had a bad job exit.

I asked respondents to share an experience that went badly. Tales were told of blatantly expressing feelings, “working for Satan” and even suing an employer. See page 2.

Most of those who left comments shared that it is never good to burn bridges, although fantasies about telling off one’s boss don’t hurt. Some warned about the danger of burning bridges when folks in the industry often end of working together again or since social media now means things can be shared. Editor’s Choice goes to the reader who said: “Taking the high road, even though repeatedly proved correct, is always difficult. In fact, I’ve bitten my tongue so often I’ve developed a lisp.”

Thanks to everyone who participated in our survey!

Tales of Bad Exits 

My office was being closed, but customers kept coming in during our layoff training so I closed the office for a long lunch hour. Customers complained and I got in trouble for closing for so long. I started crying of frustration while being scolded for closing the office, and was sent home to 'compose myself.’

The owner of the company was an extremely confrontational personality. I basically told him he was rude and abrasive and no sane, competent person would remain in his employ, in spite of the money he paid. Business has since shut down. Karma, baby.

I worked for Satan at a nonprofit - he was the worst. I not only burned the bridge, but set some C-4 to it. He had to do a lot of explaining when I left. Best feeling ever!

As a teenager, I worked 4 whole days at a local movie theater. Day 3, the manager put me on the cash register. Day 4, he took my arm & pulled me into his office, accused me of shorting the register, & went on to explain that he'd "helped save" me by rinsing out popcorn tubs & cups that were "still in good shape" so they could be re-used. I finished my shift because my only transportation was my dad picking me up after work. I told my parents about it that night -- they agreed that I was never going back & we were calling the Health Dept. They dropped off my uniform for me b/c they didn't want me around that manager. I'll never know for sure, but I would bet good money they had some choice words for him!

When hired I was required to sign an employment agreement. When laid off and I asked how the employer wanted rectify the contract violation and he didn't I sued. He didn't invite me to his country club again!

I had one boss that no matter what I did she would scream at me. I quit with a letter of resignation on her desk. I did give her two weeks’ notice. She came screaming down the hall, just why did I want to quit? I had been doing two peoples jobs for over a year. She did not want to give me more money. She did not want to give me a better title. The company was moving and she did not want to give me time off to look for a place near the new headquarters. I thought it was a good time for me to look elsewhere and get away from the extreme stress I felt working for her. I found her question extremely funny. So did my co-workers.

The only job I ever left was because of a bad manager, and of course the bad manager did the exit interview. At that point I realized that expressing my true feelings would not be useful, so I kept my cool as I knew a much better job was starting in a week!

I have seen others burn bridges. In one case in particular, an employee told management in pretty colorful language what they could do with the job...all over a policy they were holding him to that he didn't think was reasonable. Turns out, this employee had enough good points that he has been rehired. I guess you have to know your value if you decide to burn a bridge you think you might want to cross later!

I gave my notice and said nothing bad or negative. This sent the woman I worked for into a rage. She kept telling me how she was the nicest person in the world and how everyone loved her and she was NOT a controlling person. Hummmmmm, I was kind of stumped. All I said was that I never said she was not nice and that I found another opportunity that I thought would be a good fit. I tried to leave on a happy note. However, I never asked for a reference since I got the impression that she was very upset when I resigned. FYI, she was the most controlling person I had ever worked for and I found out later she would bad mouth me. It was weird. Later the employer moved her to a position without any direct reports. Any wonder?

A major corporate layoff, I lost my job. I kept calm and was courteous and professional. I saw people around me having absolute meltdowns. Looking back, I don't have any regrets about how I reacted...but I remember those who acted out and now that is all I remember about them.


I've always done my best up until the end. I have no regrets upon exiting any of my jobs.

I have only experienced a couple that left a bad taste in my mouth. Fortunately, the next step on the journey of my work life has always turned out to be better. Even if the situation was terrible, you learn something that may help you later in life.

Best NOT to burn any bridges. I can say that I've gained knowledge from all of the places I've worked that served me greatly - even from Satan. It's just that, sometimes, some matches and C-4 are needed - mostly to help take care of the poor souls left behind.

I was a middle school teacher and had earned my Masters and was promised a raise; when told I wouldn't get it, I said that I might not come back in the fall. The next day my position was advertised in the newspaper. I was upset, but bit my tongue and said I would be back. But during the summer I looked for another position and then stuck it to them. Since then, I've learned to be more diplomatic and not burn bridges.

I have not been fired or quit a job but had a person in my office quit. It was not amicable as she left her employee badge taped to the computer screen with a note that stated, "You people take your jobs too seriously and it is as quiet as mouse in this office, no fun folks goodbye."

Taking the high road, even though repeatedly proved correct, is always difficult. In fact, I've bitten my tongue so often I've developed a lisp.

In the other five layoffs no bridges were burned!

HR kept bugging me to come in for an exit interview. I saw no need and left without it.

I dream of telling my boss what an abject incompetent he is when I retire and how much contempt a large percentage of employees have for him. I won't, but a little fantasy doesn't hurt.

Being fired is humiliating. The first concerns are about, "what next?" or "how do I tell my family?" Less concern about burning bridges.

I always tell former bosses that I am available for questions and consulting. I don't want to hurt the plan participants because I have decided to move on.

Verbatim (cont.) 

I don't believe in burning bridges as you never know who you might end up working with or for in the future.

Look at LinkedIn to see how far (or near) people can be connected. You may be burning more than just one bridge... and could get stuck on an island. Best to leave with a smile even if you are swearing never to see those people again as you walk to your car.

Be nice to the people you meet on the way up, because you're going to meet the very same people on the way down!

With social media so prevalent, it's just not worth burning bridges anymore. Thirty years ago it would have been a private affair, but these days who knows if the exit manager or someone else will tweet about your behavior. Just not worth the satisfaction of telling someone off, I think.

My "2" exits were pretty amicable but I am working for some crazies now and when my number comes up - and it will - I am not going quietly!!!

My thought is you have to leave on a good note if possible. It may not be possible, but I can honestly say it is never in your best interest to p*ss someone off. It always finds a way back into your work life.

In my more mature years I have realized that it's a small world and an even smaller pension community. No matter what the circumstances, nothing is gained by burning down the house on the way out, though it can feel really, really good.

DO NOT let feelings in the moment dictate words or professional and will win the respect of people (even if they never say so to your face) and you can look back with pride rather than regret.

There are a lot of jerks out there. I have had a half dozen jobs that I really liked, and that I was really good at - and then the boss changes, and it all goes to hell. That said, I have always worked hard to reconnect with the new boss, and for the very most part I have done so. I have never been fired - and I have never quit without something "better" in hand. In that respect, I have been lucky because I know a lot of friends out there who haven't had that luxury. But there is at least one guy out there that I still wish I had told to *&(&^ off on the spot, rather than having to stew on it for a year before I had that better opportunity in hand. But you have to take care of your family... and sometimes that means you just have bide your time... and content yourself with the knowledge that karma is one mean lady, if you just give her time...


NOTE: Responses reflect the opinions of individual readers and not necessarily the stance of Asset International or its affiliates.