Burning Bridges

I suppose it’s ironic. No, I KNOW it’s ironic.

My post two months ago on staying in touch with your network brought out some folks I hadn’t heard from in awhile. They were all welcome reconnects, save one. I barely knew her—my only memory was having my brain picked shamelessly on our sole meeting. Her immediate request after 2 years of radio silence was (more) free advice on shuttering her business.

Now I have a very simple philosophy about people in crisis. They are in a sucky spot, so if I can help them, I almost always say yes.

While I didn’t accept her lunch invite, we set a date to meet by phone. When she didn’t call on time, I called her. No answer. Left a voicemail. 5 minutes, no response. Sent an email. 10 minutes, no response. 15 minutes turned into never. Yep, I never heard from her again (I actually trolled the obits for a couple of days thinking something terrible must have happened).

I don’t know if she was run over by a truck, overcome by catastrophe or just a thoughtless airhead.

She burned a bridge.

Not with any flair, but in the most dull, unimaginative way possible. I’ll always wonder what happened to her (and not in a good way).

So I decided then and there that if I decide to burn a bridge (which I’d only do with careful thought), I’m gonna do it with style. I will pirouette as I light the match. There will be no guessing as to my intent.

Note: while full flaming public bridge burning should be a last resort, here’s an example of a plagiarizer who sorely needed a bitch-slap to change her copyright-infringing ways.

None of this changes my mind about doing favors for my pals and those in sore need. But this particular person won’t be seen again on my calendar.

When is it good—or bad—to burn a bridge?

Like what you see here? Subscribe above and I’ll deliver my weekly insights directly to your in-box.


  • This person acts this way with everyone. That’s probably the reason she’s having issues with her biz.

    I’ve written about this subject before. At the very minimum, respect other people’s time. It’s the human and professional thing to do.

  • Let her get what she deserves. She is certainly earning the right to have her butt on fire. I agree with John, “next”. I have one person in my former life who took advantage. He got his due and more. I dislike not liking people. He is a life time exception.

  • Many years ago I twice set up an appointment with a lawyer who twice called me up to say he had slept through the appointment. He did not even have the decency to lie. I suspected a physical or mental illness or substance issue. I do not know what his problem was. I do know that I asked him to call me when he thought he could keep an appointment, and he never called. There is no great insight here. I just wanted to amuse.

  • Your comment to Steve that “we teach people how to treat us!”, brings me to as very sore point. When I was a very active consultant, writing personnel policy manuals for Fortune 100 clients, I would often encounter a policy statement saying. “Treat each employee of our company with dignity and courtesy. Make sure each vendor with whom you deal on behalf of our company treats you in the same way. If you are treated in any other way, please report this behavior to your manager. We will treat violations of this policy very seriously.”

    Nowhere were employees directed to treat vendors politely or courteously. What employees, managers and business owners must understand and which should be chiseled in stone on each desk is the old Biblical reference “Do not do unto others, what you would not want them do to you.” All else is commentary.

  • The same internet that makes it easy for sleazebags to rip off content-generators and to behave selfishly also provides, thankfully, the means to get even with them.

    Trash their reputation. Publicize them to death. Tweet their misdeeds. Make sure anyone who googles their infringing site or their selfish blog gets hit first with lots of honestly-begotten critiques of their sleazebagginess.

    Reputation cuts both ways. Good on you for lighting the match.

  • Rochelle

    My favorite public bridge-burnings are between comics and clueless public figures, but Erika’s came close since it hit home. We sweat over our content and deserve to have it respected. No. Matter. What.

  • So here’s the thing. In my field — at least part of it, I can hate things people do; but not the people as I may need to deal with them directly or for a client. I find it distasteful; but I choose not to socialize with such; I do not include them in any network.
    At the same time, I have no problem cutting people off, not talking to them, and explaining why to others if need be. There is a line in a cult-fave movie, The Harder They Come (also a great song, featuring reggae artist extraordinaire Jimmy Cliff. He states in Jamaican dialect I can barely mimic, “Don’t mess with me man!”

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.