Don’t Burn Bridges. Close Them.

Burning BridgeIt’s late Thursday night and Jason has had it. Had it with a company he thinks makes one wrong move after another. Had it with endless re-orgs that feel like musical chairs. And above all, had it with an abusive boss from whom he learns nothing and worse, rules through fear. He’s completely exasperated. It’s time to quit.

Jason goes online to find moral support for his big move. He finds a quote from an unknown author: “Sometimes burning bridges isn’t a bad thing. It prevents you from going back to a place you should never have been to begin with…” He smiles. “That’s totally me.”

Then seeking more solace, he searches that vaguely remembered quote from Sun Tzu written 2500 years ago: “When your army has crossed the border, you should burn your boats and bridges, in order to make it clear to everybody that you have no hankering after home.”

Ah, he thinks…”Old Sun Tzu had it right. Total commitment. No going back. Only forward.”

Bolstered, he marches in Friday morning and with a great deal of flourish announces in an eight-person meeting that he is “done with this “ridiculous sham of a company”. He proceeds to lambast the others for a good ten minutes on everything wrong with the company, its management and of course, his boss.  None are left with any doubt how he feels. His invective is scorching.

On his way home after a few drinks with his now former colleagues who all high-fived him for his guts, he begins to have a few doubts.

“Did I really need to do it that way?” he wonders. He thinks back to the advice one lone colleague, Nick, gave him urging him not to do it this way: “Jason…it will be like peeing in your pants. It’ll feel all warm and wonderful for twenty seconds and afterwards all you’ll have is a wet, soggy mess.”

He chuckles at that thinking Nick may well have been right. He starts to question his move. To have doubts. To have regrets.

As well he should.

Jason didn’t need to burn this bridge. What he really needed to do was to close it behind him. Moving on was the right call. The job, the industry and the boss were making him miserable. There was no future he could see. Reasons enough to move on….to rethink…to recast.

What Jason didn’t know is that Grace who was also present at the meeting was planning a move to a start-up and thought until his crack-up that Jason would be just perfect. Now she’s not so sure.

Too bad…because Jason had it right and wrong. He decided to burn a bridge instead of merely closing its gate behind him in a graceful, dignified exit.

Bridge Closed

Ron Benza

© 2013 Benza Executive Development. All rights reserved.


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4 Responses to “Don’t Burn Bridges. Close Them.”

  1. Jarrett Smith November 7, 2013 at 9:00 pm #

    Really enjoyed this post. Great advice and reminds how easy it is, especially in emotional moments, to put on blinders to all the choices that exist in any given situation if we’d only take our blinders off for a moment. Thanks!

  2. Jamie November 8, 2013 at 10:49 pm #

    Great message Ron. We’ve all been through this before – moving from one opportunity to another. In fact, I just gave notice at my job yesterday after 3 years of employment, to pursue a new position at another company. This job has certainly had its fair share of problems. Though not always easy, leaving on a good, professional note is important. Who would not want to be remembered in a positive light? Also, it’s likely paths may cross again in one way or another, and there is no point in burning a bridge. Thanks for this!

    • Ron Benza November 8, 2013 at 10:52 pm #

      Jamie–Sounds like you did a great job of closing–and not burning–the bridge!
      Kudo’s and congrats!

      • Jamie November 8, 2013 at 11:00 pm #

        Thank you Ron!

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