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 principles 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.

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.

Points to consider

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.

An old wise person once told me: “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 any bridges burnt today may be the ones you have to cross tomorrow.

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

Does burning professional bridges only apply in business?

Put simply, no.

It applies to your employment, family, friends, neighbours and especially anyone that you’ll have repeated contact with.


Whatever you decide to do, don’t burn 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 balanced principles, use common sense, be positive and learn from your own mistakes bottom line.

This article was inspired by conversations with other professionals and initially published on LinkedIn.

You can also connect with Desi via @i3lance.

One thought on “Is it OK to burn professional bridges?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *