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Don’t Burn Bridges

Published December 20, 2013 6:01 AM by Scott Warner

The dictionary defines “burn your bridges behind you” as “To eliminate any possibility of a retreat to a former position.” These days, this literal military term metaphorically applies to the workplace. Often, people leave a position with ruinous behavior, sabotaging their workplace, telling off coworkers, spouting off on Facebook, etc.

It’s tempting. You’ve worked at a place for years and covered up for all the stupidity and abuse that goes along with it. When you finally make the decision to leave your first reaction is to be angry with yourself and with others. It’s time to say everything you wanted to say and teach these people who didn’t have a clue all this time a lesson. Maybe you have a legitimate beef, maybe not. Maybe, it’s just a case of the why-bothers and you have emotionally checked out. Sometimes the bridge gets burned, sometimes it gets scorched.

Don’t do it.

The world is small, and the lab smaller still. We rely on our reputations and our relationships to succeed in our careers and lives. Moreover, burning your bridges doesn’t accomplish what you think it might.

Life at work goes on, and the work still gets done. Coworkers adjust, people are replaced, and nothing in the culture changes. All it does is sever your ties irrevocably. Wendy Goffe, a trusts and real estate lawyer blogging for Forbes, agrees:

“Amazingly enough, they get over it—quickly. (That’s what you want, isn’t it?) The furniture and office supplies left behind are looted, and depending on the view from the now empty office, someone else moves in or it is used for much needed storage. Mine is likely a candidate for storage.”

Deep down, maybe, we all know this happens. The first thing that happens when we leave is people move our stuff, change our policies, tear down our notes, clean out our lockers, and completely forget that we worked there at all. Perhaps, burning bridges is partly a desire to make sure a lasting impression is made, one way or another.

How about you? Have you ever burned bridges?

NEXT: Why Culture?

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About this Blog


    Scott Warner, MLT(ASCP)
    Occupation: Laboratory Manager
    Setting: Critical Access Hospital
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