Whatever You Do, Don’t Burn Those Bridges!

The thought of telling a boss to ‘take this job and shove it’ may sometimes be an appealing one, at least on a particularly bad day at work, but in all reality there are very few areas of life where burning one’s bridges is ever a good idea.

Especially when it comes to any sort of employment or business situation. Even if you hate your job, whether it’s as a janitor, fry cook, manager, or company CEO, there are multiple ways burning that bridge can come back to haunt you, ranging from a bad reference to running into your former boss – you know, the one you told to pound sand the last time you saw him – in a long, ridiculously awkward Chipotle line.

Here at Luttrell Staffing Group, we’ve had more than a few employees who have burned their bridges with us for one reason or another.

One of our Tennessee offices once had a temp who, upon finding out he wasn’t going to be hired full-time where he was working, proceeded to fire off the following mass-email to everyone, and I do mean everyone, currently working at the client:

“The fact that you would have me fired over your Napoleon Complex, sometimes misdiagnosed as the GOD complex. However very similar! It’s an informal term describing an alleged type of inferiority complex which is said to affect some people, especially men who are short in stature. The term is also used more generally to describe people who are driven by a perceived handicap to overcompensate in other aspects of their lives. Other names for the term include Napoleon Syndrome and Short man Syndrome. <-( Thank You Wikipedia) Anyone taller than this man should stand guard and watch their back. I would advise sitting when he is around and slightly slouching a bit to keep this tyrant from exacting his misdirected anger.”

One guy told us he was quitting because his tax refund came in and he apparently had enough beer and cigarette money to last him a few weeks. Yeah, its one thing for that to be the case, but quite another to openly ADMIT IT!

More than one have burned their bridges with us with a little help from the police, who came to various client facilities looking for them.

The destructive ones are always a hoot, like the man who was released after the warehouse supervisor caught him karate chopping a pallet, or the flagger who, upon getting caught with three bottles of Miller Lite in his lunch cooler, got angry and kicked the door of the company truck.

One employee, upon finding out that his place of employment would no longer tolerate his selecting his own schedule regardless of the hours the company wanted him to work, responded by not only removing everyone’s timecard from the rack and throwing them all over the room, but then proceeding to empty each and every ketchup and mustard packet all over the break-room floor. When our staffer asked about it later on the phone, he denied it and tossed expletives at her.

I could go on and on, but you get the picture. In all reality, it really just comes down to self control, right? Dealing with disappointment in an adult way. And unfortunately, entirely too many people have refused to learn this seemingly childhood lesson as full grown adults.

Invariably, a higher percentage of these folks than you’d think come back to us weeks, months, and even years later asking for work, and our answer is almost always no. Why take a risk on someone we KNOW has zero self-control?

On the other end, the rewards of NOT burning bridges, of dealing with disappointment like a grownup and even being gracious in defeat, can be immense.

Consider one of our Business Development Managers (we’ll call her Susan).

Susan had literally been after one client for years, and finally got the chance a few months ago to present a proposal to them.

The presentation went as well as it could possibly have gone. Days went by, and Susan and the office she was working with were all but preparing for the client they just knew they were about to land.

Except, they didn’t land the client. Instead, the client chose another agency and notified Susan of their decision via letter.

Sure, she was disappointed. She had poured her heart and soul into landing this account for years. It would have been easy to respond curtly or refuse to respond at all, to shake the proverbial dust from her feet and move on to better prospects.

In fact, we learned later that another rejected agency had done exactly that by sending a snippy, condescending letter that made the HR manager feel disrespected for her choice.

Instead, Susan chose another path. She sent a letter thanking them for their time and consideration and wishing them all the best moving forward. She made it clear that we would welcome the opportunity at any time to help them in any way we can.

The HR Manager, upon reading Susan’s letter, actually regretted her choice for a bit. How do we know this? Because a few weeks later, when the chosen agency didn’t do the job as expected, we were the agency they chose to partner with, and one key reason was Susan’s graciousness in defeat.

So, whether you’re working your first job, trying to land an account, or doing pretty much anything else in life, leave those bridges between your past, present, and future situations as intact as you possibly can. You never know when you’ll need to cross them!


This post originally appeared on Staffing Talk.