have you ever intentionally burned a bridge? — Ask a Manager

I burned a bridge once. I was at the company seven years. So many things went wrong there I wouldn’t be able to mention them all. I walked into a new position with no procedures, and only a vague list of problems I was expected to fix. This is actually my niche and I left the company having created not only templates for documentation, but also several files full of documentation and a spot on the server for SOPs for anything I’ve ever encountered while I was there. As well as programs to automate several procedures.

At a point I was running two departments and doing the work of one department myself because they wouldn’t hire someone. When they finally hired someone to run the one department for me I found out the hard way (by them emailing me his salary slip) that he was getting paid almost twice what I was getting. When I brought it up, HR told me that I agreed to do the job for the amount they offered years previously, and if I wasn’t happy I should find another job.

Close to the end they got a consultant in and asked us all to be frank and tell her about all the problems we saw. Most of my colleagues were reluctant to talk to her. She was told by senior management that I was a rabble rouser and she should ignore me. She told me this directly over a cigarette during a break.

One of the issues I highlighted was how our fire extinguishers weren’t serviced, didn’t function or were hidden behind office furniture. We also had poor housekeeping with boxes of archived documents standing in front of the fire hoses. The warmest the company has ever made me feel was the morning I was instructed to keep the consultant away from our building as it had caught fire during the early morning hours. A compressor housed in a wooden enclosure overheated, and the wooden cupboard next to the compressor housed all our flammable liquids in drums of 20l. The best part was that the fire extinguisher was on top of that cupboard that exploded. The fire caused a lot of damage, and it was something I’ve been warning them about for years.

I was shouted at by the CEO for not completing an anonymous survey. He was a bit nonplussed when I told him it wasn’t very anonymous if he knew I didn’t complete it, which is exactly why I abstained. My direct manager had me make up presentations which he then presented to senior management as his own work.

He was so behind in his own admin that my last paycheck was 2/3rd short because he hasn’t been approving my leave in the system for the last 6 months, which meant it was processed as unpaid. Finance informed him after hearing of my resignation, and he simply forgot to actually do his job or mention to me before debit orders started going through that my paycheck would be (a bit) short. So almost a week before my last day I suddenly had to scramble and since my boss lost my sick notes, I luckily kept copies for my own records that I could submit to get that money paid.

I resigned same day as a co-worker. I finally decided to resign as I was running my health into the ground and I was being advised by medical specialists that I would need to resign if I wanted to continue living. I only gave the minimum of one calendar month. My resignation letter also included a project plan with Gantt chart on how I expected to finish the projects I was busy with, and warned my manager that I will refuse any additional tasks as it would mean several high cost projects missing deadlines. He left me alone and made the other co-worker’s life hell, just squeezing her for every last drop she could give until her last day.

My co-workers were told that they were not allowed to hold a farewell party for me on my last day, so they illegally did it 2 days before during lunch. I got nothing officially from the company to say thank you for my 7 years there.

I had initially agreed to stay on as a consultant at my old rate as a favour when my boss took half my notice period to start advertising my job, and then insisted I had to write up my job description and interview my own replacement, which I simply didn’t have time to do, whoops. And because of the specialisation of my job, they couldn’t find a replacement for 6 months after I left, especially not for what they paid me.

But after screwing with my money, I took my last few days and cleaned out. I had been forced for years to hold onto cupboards full of irreparable equipment simply because my boss didn’t want to damage it out or get replacements. I organised a company to pick up all the electronic waste and damaged equipment and damaged it out as per the company procedures, knowing my boss would only see the forms in his email long after I was gone. I left that office in the best ever condition for my replacement.

I stayed late on my last day, with my boss in his office waiting for me to come greet him when I left. I then quietly snuck out a side door, deposited all my access badges and keys with Office Management and left. I blocked all work numbers and set up a delete filter with a very polite auto reply to any emails from the company’s subdomain. I never again heard from them in an official capacity, although I am still friends with a lot of my co-workers even today.

I wondered at the time whether I would regret it down the line, and 5 years later I am still content with the way I handled it. I stayed there much too long because I loved the kind of work I was doing and my co-workers were great people, but if only for financial reasons I should have left earlier.

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