Is it OK to burn professional bridges?

Even though it depends on which bridge you may be burning I believe you should live by your professional principles most importantly.

Sure some personal ones crossover but let’s call them professional principles for now. These are the principles that you live by, the principles that build or form your character. The things the people who sign ‘your’ cheque looked for when you were employed.

There are many situations where this – burning of bridges – may happen. For example, some will say well it wasn’t me, it was the other person, they forced me into a situation or corner – it always takes two to tango (harsh realities) even if what was done was next to nothing. And this isn’t a negative, I heard people blow up on others because the other person was just too good (jealousy in the office)….

Or it could be that you are the boss and you have an employee who is no longer the right fit for your team or business (we have all had those!), naturally it never ends well in those situations if you decide to change the face(s) of your team business. It’s great that you stepped up to do that but not in the eyes of those affected. But the bottom line is that a business needs to make money at the end of the day and cannot afford dead weight….

Therefore bridges get burned…

…there are many reasons why this could happen, almost all for negative reasons.

burning match

Burning bridges doesn’t always solve problems…

So is it OK to burn professional bridges?

Well, if you DO decide to that, never act out fantasies nor impulses. A controlled burn is best, because word spreads through the office faster than wildfire. Mind the fragility of your reputation; it takes years to build and an instant to destroy. Basic unpleasantness walks on long, conspicuous legs. If you plan to stay around, this is not the place to incinerate a bridge.

Some points to consider before you make any decision:

  1. Understand the limitations of your environment.
  2. Create solid reasons for whatever decision you make – remember it is YOU who will have to live by it.
  3. Be direct – beating around the bush never solves problems quickly if that is your goal.
  4. If it is well underway (the burning) be discreet about it – although if your reading this then it’s already happened and it’s a moot point. Consider it a lesson learned!
  5. Employ a balance of emotion, cool professionalism and human appeal. If you are ending a professional relationship, end it without it overpowering your own emotions.
  6. Ask for confirmed clarification – make sure they understand what you have said. This is known to be equal to a handshake.

Whatever the case, what your principles guide you to do (alongside common sense), live by it and deal with the consequences. A weak-willed person will live in the mire of regret and if’s and maybe’s, this is why it’s so important to have real reasoning behind what you do.

As an old wise person told me simply “you make your bed…you lie in it.”

Personally I’ve been raised a principled person, my goal is to always tell the truth, be honest in everything I do.

Live by the consequences of your decisions. But do not make snap decisions, the flip side to that is that bridges burnt today maybe the one you have to cross tomorrow.

Ultimately no one wants a weak-willed person running their business in part or whole.


Whatever you decide to do, don’t burnt bridges based on lies and dishonesty.  You create a lie, another will have to cover that up and eventually it’ll come back to bite you and hard. Not a good way to work or live for that matter.

Be guided by principles and common sense bottom line.


  1. retroandswap says:

    Thank you for taking the time to write this, I’ve face some of the above in the recent months and strongly agree with your thoughts.

  2. Deven says:

    Have to wait for the import of your blog to sink in. It does make sense to me. There’s one question though. We interact with, and hence respond to people, seldom with institutions. The choice of “Burning bridges”, therefore is personal. Now, when the institution, being larger, stands to be affected, mechanisms would ensure the elimination of the personal flavor, which I’d agree is most of the time myopic. Your comments?

    • This is true regarding people v organisations. If an organisation does something bad, people usually look for someone to blame, they don’t necessarily heap all of the blame on the person responsible. It’s a common act in human society today.

      Our professional values steep from our personal ones ultimately, so yes they are simply values, however for the purpose of the article splitting them in two is more precise and hopefully you like many others have been able to understand the link and that they are one and the same.

      I believe it is sometimes difficult to label a institution or their act as ‘myopic’. After all, it is people that are behind an organisation, ergo it is people that make the decisions so an individual would ultimately be cutting off individuals or vise versa.

      All people are encouraged to make the smart decision, although striving for the ideal is best. If every single person started thinking cut throat burning bridges and the like, think of how much worst society would become.

      It’s important that people regardless of whether they at the head of an institution or an employee, or an average joe walking down the street seriously consider all facets to a situation whilst principally striving for that ideal.

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