Keep matches in your pocket around bridges

Published 10:30 am Saturday, December 3, 2022

By Harold Brummett

It takes a true expert to write on this topic. A lifetime of practice and experience has given me the credentials to be that expert.

Watching others burn bridges and after igniting professional and personal conflagrations of my own, the evidence indicates there are three main ways to burn a bridge.

Email newsletter signup

Indirect burning is possible both intentional and unintentional, but after sifting through the ashes the result always comes back to one of the three main categories.

First, there is burning the bridge before you get to it. This is most commonly accomplished by confrontation with an immediate superior, although any person in a position of power over you can suffice.

Standing your ground in this manner usually involves little or no forethought about consequences.

Burning a bridge in this fashion is often associated with moral superiority. Combined with an attitude of there is no way I am going to do this particular thing, or let them get away with that – whatever that is at the moment.

This heats up tender to a point of combustion.

This bridge burning is throwing away all future at the current employment, needs of family or waiting to make a better more advantageous exit.

Prudence, precaution and planning are direct enemies of type 1 bridge burning.

Second, there is the option of burning a bridge while you are standing on it. Happenstance is the parent of this type of bridge burning. Unwitting comments, allying yourself with a lost cause, or befriending a coworker who has a large red target on their back is the usual precursor.

Alcohol occasionally is an accelerant in this type of conflagration. Social gatherings of coworkers is most often the precursor of these types of blazes. Things said, confidences made and broken, and the office politics dragon is set loose.

Victims of bridge burning while standing on it many times don’t realize their position until the bridge fails and they fall into the chasm of unemployment while coworkers toast their demise. Misplaced trust, misplaced confidence and a lack of situational awareness are hallmarks of type 2 bridge burning.

Then there is burning a bridge on the other side. Standing on solid terra firma with a new job offer in hand is a woodpile of opportunity to set fire to the past, and that horrid company where you were working.

Revenge for any real or imagined slight is the usual, although not by any means the only motivation for burning a bridge like this.

However wonderful it may feel to set a match to the past and really tell off those where you were working, those actions have a high probability of backfire.

An example of this would be after working at your new employment for ten minutes the realization sets in that you made a horrible mistake. There is no going back now, reapplying to your previous employer or even driving down the street of your old employer is now out of bounds.

Sitting on the other side you watch as the bridge turns to ash and you know that any sort of reconciliation is impossible. No letters of endorsement, no professional help, no useful contacts.

Take this job and shove it is the musical score to type 3 bridge burning.

Bridge burning is usually practiced by the uninitiated in the ways of the world. Many bridge burners can be found pushing shopping carts heading nowhere in particular.

Take a breath and keep your matches in your pocket.

Write to Harold Brummett at