Burn Bridges and Go Hungry

burning bridgesThe old saying “Don’t burn your bridges” is particularly appropriate when it comes to work. Any given company has an agglomeration of individuals, each with their own personality. The interactions and dynamics of these individuals can produce some interesting situations.

An employee is well-advised to keep his emotions under control and perform his duties as best he can. Burning bridges, in this context, refers to acting unpleasantly when someone is leaving, ensuring that he will never be hired by his former employer. There are many ways to accomplish this goal within the workplace.

A particular example comes from Wikipedia, which is known for its high-brow, elitist attitude. A Wikipedia editor “went postal,” as the saying goes, by composing a long and detailed rant. The rant named names and criticized the editor’s co-workers, revealing intimate morsels of information about their perceived shortcomings.

The level of detail made public in this rant gives veracity to its claims.  This editor definitely burned his bridges when he wrote this rant and published it. Even if he was anonymous, he probably did not stay anonymous for long, given the detailed information he exposed.

Here are more ways to burn bridges, some of which are public displays. Social media and the Internet provide a plethora of opportunities to castigate oneself very quickly.

1. Twitter

Posting political, sexist, racist or mean “tweets” on Twitter can get the user fired. Consider the case of Gilbert Gottfried. He tweeted some mean jokes about Japan on his Twitter account. Gottfried used to be the voice of the famous Aflac duck, until he made those comments. Aflac is the largest insurance company in Japan. Gottfried was fired. Generally speaking, making comments on Twitter that can be interpreted as negative in any way can burn bridges faster than a wildfire.

2. Facebook

Incriminating photos of oneself or fellow employees on Facebook, another social media website, are a great way to burn all kinds of bridges, including with friends and family. Posting inappropriate or objectionable material can also have the same result. In 2009, Kimberley Swann, an employee of Ivell Marketing and Logistics in the United Kingdom, was fired about posting that her job was ‘boring’ on her Facebook page. She later said the company was being nosy, and Ivell Marketing stated they had a “zero tolerance social accountability standard.”

3. Blogging

Blogging has been a problem for employees who blog since blogging first became popular. Employees cannot rely on the First Amendment to protect them from employer backlash if they write things their employer does not like. While this has limits, in practice it is hard to undo. Ellen Simonetti, a former flight attendant with Delta Air Lines, started a blog in 2003 as a form of therapy to cope with her mother’s death. In 2004, she was fired for posting pictures of herself and fellow Delta employees in their uniforms.

4. Goofing Off

Employers do not like goofing off, spoofing or wasting time. Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City fired a city employee in 2006 for playing solitaire on his work computer. Employees who wish to keep their jobs must familiarize themselves with the corporate culture. Of course, sometimes employees do things that are frankly stupid in retrospect, like store pornography on their work computers. Not following the unwritten and the written social rules in the workplace will bring bridges crashing down.

5. Getting Along

Employees who fail to get along amicably with their fellow employees are good candidates for the ax. Remember the old saying “There is no ‘I’ in team?” Employees who don’t follow this rule can make everybody hate them. Taking credit and never giving it puts one on terrible footing with co-workers and managers. To burn bridges, all an employee has to do is step over other people, even in a small way.

These are all examples that everyone can avoid.  Your career isn’t worth losing it over such trite situations.  Not burning bridges at work was some of the wisest advice my Dad ever left me.  You never know when your contacts will come in handy someday.  Just remember, you never know when you will have to make a call because you are desperate for a job.

To the readers, have you ever burned bridges at work?  If so, tell us about it in the comments below!

photo by katybate