Grasp the lever.
Pull the safety pin.
Hurl the grenade at the bridge you never plan to cross again.
If your goal is to limit your networking opportunities and ensure that your name summons a bad taste in the mouths of your former coworkers and employers, then blow up every bridge you cross. On the other hand, if you believe life resembles less of a predictable straight line and more of a path similar to Deals Gap, a portion of U.S. Route 129 that has 318 curves in 11 miles, then step away from the grenade and simply wave and smile as you walk in your new direction.
The Power & Wisdom Behind Restraint
Even the most adamant people who swear their allegiance to the torch-the-bridge-and-watch-it burn belief will admit that crystal balls and time machines do not exist beyond movie sets and books. As a result, there is no guarantee that their new path will never cross their former coworkers and employers.
The don’t-burn-bridges advice may not be easy to accept. Your former coworkers and employers may represent everything that you deem toxic and suffocating in the workforce. You may even want the satisfaction of giving them a piece of your mind before you leave and may be giddy with the thought of slipping off the muzzle that silences the words you’ve wanted to scream for far too long.
Before you paint profanity better than Ralphie’s dad on A Christmas Story, take a breath.
The only thing anyone can promise about life, other than it will one day end, is that it will change. Just like a country song, you’ll be seven-years-old… and then all of a sudden, you’ll be turning twenty-one… and then after what feels like a few breaths, you’ll celebrate forty… and then, you’ll look at the picture on your mantlepiece and see the smiling faces of your grandchildren. Time brings change. Change brings growth. Growth leads you toward opportunities and people that your younger self probably couldn’t even imagine.
Six Degrees of Separation
This conversation isn’t just about tangible burning-a-bridge gestures, like throwing the middle finger up on the way out the door. Words can set bridges on fire too, and I’m not merely referring to words spoken directly to former coworkers and employers. There are times when you’ll have no idea you’re talking with the partner of a past coworker or perhaps a past coworker’s cousin or child. Don’t just put down the explosives as you walk out the door; continue to keep them under wraps when speaking with people outside your trusted circle. Because as we all know, words travel fast, and the most negativity-drenched of those travel fastest.
It’s not meek to hold your tongue. It’s not cowardly to resist engaging in conversations headed nowhere. On the contrary, to refuse to act anything less than respectful as you exit one part of your life and turn toward another is, perhaps, one of the wisest moves you can make.
Let the last thing your former coworkers and employers remember be your light and contribution, not your explosive exit.