The Art of the Bridge Burn, PLUS Plastic Surgery: My friend says no!

Dear Robin:

I have been working in the pharmaceutical industry (marketing) for about 6 years. During 4 of those 6 years, I have been supervised by a man who is rude, abusive, thoughtless, dishonest, offensive and a bully. This isn’t just my perception; it is one that is shared by everyone in the pretty large department he manages. Three critical team members have left in the past year, and luckily for me, I am about to be the fourth.

I’ve decided to completely change my career direction and have secured a job that starts in two weeks at a mortgage company. I’m only 33, so I think I am still young enough to try something new.

My question for you, Robin, is this: I am leaving a job in an area which I never plan to work in again. I am leaving good friends behind who will still have to deal with this jerk on a regular basis. I want to tell this guy off when I leave and make sure he knows exactly how I feel. My husband says this is a BAD move, and that I should keep my mouth shut.

What do you think? Should I let him have it, or just leave quietly?

– Disgruntled in Dallas

Dear Disgruntled:

Your letter is yet another in a long line of letters I have received which echo my own personal history. First, let me congratulate you on your move. It’s scary to start something new, so I commend you. Also, I’m going to bet it must have been at least a little soul-crushing to work in marketing for a drug company.


You are faced with the age-old dilemma of knowing when to let your feelings out and when to keep your mouth shut.  This conundrum comes up repeatedly for everyone all the time, and making the wrong call can be very costly, either to your personal integrity or to your career.  I’m going to take everything you said about this man at face value, because that’s what I have to do when I answer these questions from strangers.  Also, he sounds like the sort of fellow that would be enjoying success in middle management.

As I sat here thinking about your dilemma, I realized that you aren’t limited to the two choices you identified in your letter.  I think there is a third option which will likely be far more effective and satisfying than either educating this guy on his high level of prickness (prickiosity?) or saying nothing.  That third option will be described later, because I need to keep you in suspense long enough to read all the other crap I’m going to write.  Let’s go through your choices:

Option A: Do nothing (also known as the Pussy Option or the Gives a Shit about Her Future Option)

You give your two weeks notice, you move on with your life, and you try to make something good out of your time spent with Mr. Personality.  If you lasted 4 years with this guy, you must be good at dealing with conflict and difficult personalities.  I imagine that those skills, which are critical to climbing the ladder in almost every company except the last one I worked for, were honed and perfected by the constant bullshit you had to deal with working for the Boss from Hell.  In a way, he sort of did you a favor, so gather your things, shut your pie hole, and be glad you were able to get out alive.




Option B: Burn that Bridge (my personal favorite)

I picture something like this: You arrange a meeting/lunch/cake thing during which you plan to say goodbye to everyone.  Make sure you stop by the boss’ office and let him know how much you hope to see him there.  Once everyone is assembled, go around the room and tell people what you liked about working with them.  Save your boss for last, and then hit him with this:

“Boss, before I leave, I think it’s really important to let you know the impact you have had on my time here.  I have learned so many valuable lessons from you which I know I can take with me into any job I may have in the future.”

At this point, the little prick is beaming, because he’s too stupid and arrogant to have picked up on your distaste for him over the 4 years you’ve worked together.  Come to think of it, either he is stupid or you are a really good actress and very politically savvy.  Whatever.  So the boss is looking around, grinning at everyone else in the room and nodding his head as if to say, “that’s right, bitches, I taught her all she needs to know and you didn’t.”

At this point, your office friends are deeply confused and a little pissed, wondering why you decided to kiss the toad’s ass on your last day when you have been commiserating with them for years about how much you all hate him.


And then you say the following:

“Here’s what I learned from working from you for 4 years: I am strong enough to put up with someone stealing my ideas and selling them as his own; I am smart enough to avoid being in a room alone with an egomaniacal angry man without a witness; I am quick enough to dodge an ass-grab in an elevator; and I am confident enough to not let my self-esteem be trampled by the alcohol-fueled rantings of a white collar psychopath.  So thank you for that!”

It doesn’t matter if any or all of that was true – the point is that it has awesome shock value and you will go down in history at that company as having the best going away party ever.  Who doesn’t want that kind of rep?

If you are going to burn a bridge, be sure to use the AskDesCamp Bridge Burning Protocol (TM) which can be summed up thusly:

1. Gaze upon your future and determine whether you will ever need to cross the bridge in question again.  For example, is there a chance you will need a reference from this man or this company?  If the answer is yes, you may need to cross the bridge someday, I suggest standing down.  If the answer is no, please proceed to Step 2 and ignite the fire.

2. When you burn the bridge, give it all you’ve got.  There’s no sense in going halfway with this, so grab your verbal gasoline and blowtorch of wit and pent up anger and light that motherfucker up.  As Dylan Thomas said in his infinite wisdom, “When one burns one’s bridges, what a very nice fire it makes.”


Option C: Delegate your feelings to a third party, namely Human Resources

This may be the best option for you, because although it lacks the in-your-face-fuck-you-asswipe fun of the confrontational approach described in Option B, it does not leave you feeling impotent and self-loathing as the use of Option A could.  Before you leave, schedule a meeting with both HR and your boss’ boss.  Tell them how you feel, use specifics and if you have written backup to your allegations, present those as well.

Make it known at the beginning of the meeting that your goal is simply to express yourself before you move on and to help the co-workers you are leaving behind as they must continue to interact with the boss.  Also be sure to express that you have no ill feelings towards the company, and you assume that your coming forward will not impact any future reference you may need from your employer.

In other words: tattle.  Tattle hard.  Maybe you aren’t the first person to complain, and maybe this could be the final straw.  If your goal is to have this man held accountable for his behavior and to provide some needed relief to the co-workers you are leaving behind, Option C is probably your best bet.


But oh, how I do love to warm my hands on the embers of a bridge that leads to nowhere.  With one boss in particular, I had no trouble telling him I thought he treated people in a shitty manner.  Smart?  Maybe not.  But this guy was such an asshole that a reference from him would have been about as effective as telling a prospective employer during an interview that I was a pregnant fibromyalgia sufferer prone to long absences when I felt the need to engage in peyote-soaked navel gazing in the deserts of New Mexico.

Whew!  I do believe that was a run-on sentence.  Sorry.

Dear Robin:

My mom sent me a link to your blog and I really like it!  I have been best friends with a girl since about the third grade.  We are now in college together at University of Oregon and are pledging the same sorority.  Last week we had a big argument and I am still pretty upset about it.  Basically, I told her I wanted to get breast implants, and should took it really weird.  She told me I was being stupid and vain and that she didn’t think she could be friends with someone who was so shallow that they would have their boobs done.

Later she apologized about it, but I’m still feeling angry.  Why does she care what I do with my body?  What’s up with her, and how should I handle it?

Flat and Not Happy

Dear Flat:

First things first: Go DUCKS!


OK, you have been good friends with this young lady for many years.  Don’t let this silly fight get in the way of continuing your relationship.  I have a few thoughts:

1. It’s highly ironic for someone pledging a sorority to judge anyone for being shallow;

2. It’s none of her business what you do with your ta-tas (although sweetie, you do seem a little young for plastic surgery); but

3. This isn’t really about your boobs.

I don’t know you, but what you are describing to me sounds like your friend suffers from a combination of anxiety over what may already be a shift in a long-term friendship, the stress of starting college, a fear of being left behind by her compatriot and maybe a good dose of competitiveness.


Maybe she feels less attractive than you and she is worried that your new rack will make her feel even more so.  Perhaps she has always enjoyed knowing that she out-ranked you in the Boob Cup Competition and your decision to surgically enhance yourself is taking that small victory away.  Whatever it is, she probably doesn’t really intend to end the friendship upon your supersizing your sisters, but I’d make the effort to take her out for lunch and get to the bottom of what’s really going on.  I’m betting this has more to do with her own personal fears and insecurities than it does with your future bra size.

Keep me posted and don’t add more than a cup,


This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. John DesCamp

    Well, yes. You got to the right conclusion, but certainly took the road less traveled. The thing is, I suppose, that it’s hard to do the smart thing because the immediate gratification we get from flaming the bridge is unbearably pleasurable. Potential advice professional (is there such a thing?)
    liability issue: you forgot to advise your reader that the industry she’s heading into is filled with management people who offer some more opportunities for learning……

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  3. CL

    HR is not your friend. That whole “open door, we care about you” thing sounds great in theory, but it’s not reality. So, you might as well light that mother fucker up. It would probably make more of a statement, leave more of a trail than any HR meeting/ complaint could ever do. And if the previous boss is that much of a prick, you could make a public record of it by filing a complaint with BOLI. Pain in the ass, but it gets investigated (kinda/ sorta), it gets the point across, and if that person is to ever do something to someone in the future there will be a record of an official complaint that was made against them. It’s not like HR advertises that shit. Like I said, HR is not your friend. You will be swept under the rug just as quickly as they can sweep Mr. Pig man under the rug…. athough this is just my own personal experience. I don’t regret the course of action I took, it was difficult, but I figure I would not have been able to live with myself if I just let it go. People (in my experience men) that are outwardly brazen, innapropriate, and callous, only become more so. Good luck.

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