The Hamilton Spectator

I burned a bridge, enjoyed the flames


If you search “burning bridges at work” online, you’ll find a lot of results about how not to burn them. These articles tell you not to speak badly of employers or your experience­s because you never know who you’ll run into over the span of your career. The person you stand up to today could be the one who’s hiring tomorrow.

It’s sage advice, I guess. But there are times when you gotta set that bridge on fire and enjoy the flames.

Some workplaces are toxic and some people don’t respect boundaries. And, if burning that bridge means you are respectful­ly standing up for yourself and not letting people take advantage of you, then burn it all down.

Ashes to ashes.

This is a calculated risk, though. No one should just pop off on their employer because they’re having a bad day or their manager is annoying them. That’s just silly. Bills will still need to be paid and refrigerat­ors will still need to be stocked.

When you decide it’s time to light that match, you have to be prepared for the fallout — but the fallout is rarely worse than being mistreated at work.

A few years back, I took the risk. I had enough of being treated badly at work, so I took a deep breath and finally stood up for myself after being made to feel less than and having work affect my health — both mentally and physically.

I said, regardless of what was going to happen, let me tell everybody what I thought, respectful­ly. The blaze was big and hot and scary — but necessary to my healing after working for an unsupporti­ve and toxic employer.

Management was uncomforta­ble. My voice shook while I spoke and defined my boundaries. I didn’t let anyone besmirch my name. I took control of the narrative.

And it felt good.

The idea that we shouldn’t speak out about bad workplaces is about protecting bad employers that need to do better. We are told to be “profession­al” and do as Michelle Obama taught us: “when they go low, we go high.” Hold your tongue and do your job, but is that helping or harming?

Unpopular opinion: It’s not profession­al to endure abuse from an employer simply because they sign your paycheque.

We’ve all worked with people who didn’t like us, undermined our contributi­ons, created hostile work environmen­ts or were just difficult. We don’t need to use the nuclear option to stand up for ourselves, but we do have to use our voice.

But sometimes, that isn’t enough to make a difference.

If you aren’t taken seriously, then it’s time to send a clear message about what you will and won’t stand for because your mental health and wellbeing are the priority.

I said what I needed to and got fired a few weeks later. I felt a lot of unnecessar­y shame about the firing and my confidence took a hit, but I never regretted burning that bridge. I did the right thing. And, if that was going to limit my career in certain spaces, those were not the places I wanted to be.

That burning bridge lit a new path for me. I began to see myself in a different light: someone who wasn’t going to stand for foolishnes­s just for a job. A good job, but a job, nonetheles­s.

Now, I was privileged to have a family that was supportive and understood why I started that fire. Not everyone has that privilege, this is why burning bridges is a calculated risk not to be taken lightly.

While I don’t support rage quitting or creating chaos in your workplace, we should all support setting boundaries, knowing your worth and demanding respect.

If you need to burn a bridge because that is not happening, I have an extra pack of matches.

Burn, baby, burn.

 ?? ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada