When To Burn That Bridge

I have two colleagues with a certain expertise.

With nearly every email, and regularly in meetings, they know just the right words to use and actions to take.

They burn bridges with wild abandon.

Their secret to burned-out shells of relationships? They pride themselves in their ability and find comfort with “getting things off their chest.”

A How-To Guide:

  • Don’t agree with a topic or decision? Shoot off an 8-page email to the highest-ranking executive in the business unit.
  • Read something that can be taken the wrong way? Take it personally and insist everyone is out to get you.
  • Send something and you didn’t receive a response within a day or in a way you approve of? Time to light a match.

But there are times to burn bridges. (I lit one up myself a couple weeks ago.)

Here are three things you should think about before lighting the match to the bridge.

  1. Balance the cost: What is gained by the way you interact or respond? What will the cost be to your team (think bigger than yourself)? Is the issue really deserving of this level of response and emotion? Is the relationship worth more than this single issue?
  2. Know your values: If the situation goes against your values, get involved sooner than later. Burning bridges with people and organizations conflicting with your moral compass is a “must-do”. Strike the match.
  3. Get a 2″x 4″: Pick up a long piece of wood. (No, not for the side of their head.) Put it down on the bridge and walk across. Even if you were right about the issue, there is no shame in repairing the floorboards.

When do you burn bridges?


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