This week, I saw an interesting Pinterest quote that made me take pause. It said, "May the bridges I burn light the way."
In business, I've always been advised to never burn bridges. The primary consequence of bridge burning, as I've been told, is that you will have a hard time landing your next position. Better stated, "Be nice to people on your way up because you'll meet them on your way down." ~Wilson Mizner
Today's open letter from Greg Smith, a Goldman Sachs executive director who resigned from his position, has generated lots of positive and negative buzz. The company quickly issued a public response to the exiting employee's statement. While some people have criticized Mr. Smith for burning a bridge, other have applauded him for standing up for his convictions.
A famous 70s group once sang, "it's a thin line between love and hate." Could the same thin line apply to being honest vs. being hurtful? An interesting article suggests that to lead a rich and successful life, you've got to learn to trim the fat. Another writer suggests that telling someone not to burn bridges is bad career advice.
In the past, I must admit that I've immediately made judgments when a candidate started bad mouthing his/her previous employer during a phone screening/interview. While I understand an employee may be venting and expressing frustration over unfair or adverse circumstances, I tend to think, "Shouldn't you be venting to close family and trusted friends and not me?" It happens, though, that some recruiters, being affable and engaging, will end up serving as counselors from time to time.
There are websites that encourage employees to share horror stories about their past employers and in effect, burn their bridges in a civilized public forum. In the world of teaching, I've even seen blacklists that warn teachers to stay away from specific "problem schools."
Is it free speech or hate speech when an employee goes public about their less than pleasant experiences with a company? Do you feel differently when your company is the one being bashed? Have you ever intentionally/unintentionally burned a bridge in the workplace? Were the negative effects of burning bridges over exaggerated? Are there instances where burning a bridge is unavoidable? Can a bridge be unburned? (Hey, Toni Braxton believes one can unbreak a heart, so, I think it's a fair question.)
I'd love to hear your thoughts.
Maisha Cannon is a Senior Recruiter and Researcher committed to introducing employers to talent that will enhance and grow their businesses. Over the span of her 15 year career in Human Resources, Maisha has filled over 1,000 positions, and has coached hundreds of candidates on resume writing, interviewing skills, and career planning. She spends her free time blogging, engrossed in social media, and singing along to the thousands of songs in her iPod.