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The Pros and Cons of Burning Bridges

May 20th, 2015 7:00 am

burnbridges

In the final episode of Mad Men Don Draper hugs a stranger in a therapy session. The stranger compares his life to sitting in a refrigerator in the dark, just waiting to be chosen when the door opens and the light goes on.

A couple episodes earlier, Don walked out of a meeting, got in his car, and drove away—presumably forever. He didn’t want to sit in that refrigerator, either. It seemed that by breaking his contract with McCann, he had burned a bridge. But the finale implied that Don did go back. Don did some yoga first, but then he returned to New York a changed man with an idea for an iconic Coke commercial.

I asked The Glue Crew if they would ever burn a bridge like that in real life—it’s a risky choice for people who are not Jon Hamm playing Don Dapper, I mean Draper. Here are the pros and cons:

PRO: You can stop pretending to like people.

Developer Joe Cuanan once “made a conscious move to cut someone out,” he said. “The outcome was more or less what I was expecting: I cut the negativity out of the picture and have never looked back.”

CON: People will stop pretending to like you.

Chief Perfectionist Paula Campos summed it up like this: “Nobody ever talks to you again, and you might not get a LinkedIn recommendation.”

CON: You might end up burning more bridges than one.

“In my younger, more volatile days, I left a couple jobs more dramatically than I would ever do today,” says Chief Storyteller Neille Ilel. “It felt good at the time, but I wouldn’t do it again. As you get on in your professional life the world gets smaller and smaller, and you realize everyone has about two degrees of separation. You never know who might be sitting across from you in the next client meeting.”

PRO: There’s something to be said for honesty.

“Maybe more good would come from us being straightforward with one another,” says UX designer Nick Swardt. “If more bridges were burned because we don’t want to go back the way we’ve come, recommendations would mean that much more and trust would be increased.”

Just ask Don Draper. As the credits roll on the iconic Coke campaign, “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke,” Don’s insides finally match his outsides. He can’t sell the image of Don Draper anymore—partially because he’s been a terrible father and husband, not to mention an unreliable business partner, but also because Don Draper doesn’t exist. Instead, he decides to sell it like it is: He is a member of the human race, each of us united by our suffering and by hope. Though Don has changed his pitch, he’ll never change his tune—he is a Mad Man, after all. After seven seasons, his parting gift to the world is a television commercial. But at least it’s the real thing.

So if some time away from a bad work relationship leads to a spiritual epiphany (and a hit single), then burn away. “The world is small and everyone has bad moments,” says Neille. “I try to give people a pass when needed and hope they do the same!”

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