the “burn your bridges” girl digs herself in deeper

A follow-up to yesterday’s post on that ridiculous advice not to care about burning bridges: She’s now posted a video response, making the same argument. Prepare to be really pissed off and disgusted.

Update: She also seems to have deleted the comment I left there. Twice.

Since she deleted my comment over there, I’ll repost it here. This is the comment I left there that got deleted:

Rebecca! This digging yourself in deeper is crazy.

I’ve gotten my last three jobs through personal connections too. But on no planet would I tell people that they don’t need to worry about references from past jobs. Even if you get your foot in the door through a personal relationship, it can turn out that the CEO or hiring manager happens to know your old boss, and your old boss mentions the bridge you decided to burn. Why take the risk, when it’s perfectly easy to function in a way that does NOT burn bridges? What gain is there for people to squander good references when it’s normally so easy to maintain them, and none of us know when we might be glad we did?

You found something that worked for you a couple of times. Good for you. You may have gotten lucky. That doesn’t make it generally good advice.

As a side note, what do you think qualifies you to give out this advice? You don’t seem to have significant (or maybe even any) experience doing hiring for multiple employers. You seem to be speaking out of your ass, no offense. I’m sorry to be harsh, but you are giving people harmful advice that could have a real and negative impact on their careers, and after multiple people pointed out how awful this advice was yesterday, you’ve now decided to dig in and defend it (without adding any new or cogent arguments, to boot).

It’s an abusive use of the platform you have. Job-hunters deserve better.

She deleted that comment and sent me this email in response:

I appreciate your perspective and I’ve been nothing but nice to you on your blog, and am not offensive towards you and your opinions. I delete comments that I deem are inappropriate, which yours is on several counts. Also, you’re misunderstanding a lot of what I’m saying. That’s cool, but not when you comment in such a manner.

Thank you.


Personally, I think deleting comments is off-limits, unless they’re spam. If you’re going to put ideas out there, deal with the response like a grown-up. Otherwise, why have a blog?

{ 38 comments… read them below }

  1. Andy Lester*

    I laughed out loud when she started talking about extracurricular activities.

    I’m going to work on a blog posting as soon as I get home.

  2. Anonymous*

    OMG…I know, like, for a fact, at like, my cool job, if i was, like, interviewing her….i would like totally not hire her!

    since i am old i will say this: gag me with a spoon!

    i hope i teach my kids better than this!

  3. Anonymous*

    Wow, that’s what she found so horribly inappropriate “on several counts”? Give me a break.

  4. HR Minion*

    Wow, that was rather annoying of her. Inspired me to throw my own two cents in though. :)

  5. Monica O'Brien*

    Wow. All I can say is wow.

    I know Rebecca personally, and deleting a thoughtful comment seemed out of character for her. So I came to your site to see whether it was true: after reading the “offensive” comment, which does not seem particularly offensive to me, I have to say I agree with pretty much everything you said (And I’m in Gen Y).

    I actually liked Rebecca’s original post, even though I disagreed with parts of it, particularly the references part. I liked it because it made me think, and I believe some of the other points she made were good. I don’t think any of her points added up to “don’t burn bridges,” but by the time I’d read the post so many people had already pointed that out I didn’t feel it warranted another comment.

    That said, I was annoyed to the point of losing respect when I found later in the comments section that Rebecca’s main defense was various forms of “I have a different definition of ‘Don’t burn bridges'” and “my advice isn’t for everyone” instead of thinking more critically about the possibility of having flawed logic. Which continued into today’s post.

    I see this as an inability or lack of willingness to learn from others, which is what blogging should be all about for Gen Y, since, as you pointed out, we lack sheer years of experience.

    Thanks for sharing your response.

  6. Jamie Varon*

    Ok. I get it that you didn’t agree with her. She deleted your comments. That’s infuriating to you.

    It’s her blog. Get over it.

    This post is low and I think you dug yourself as well. You published her email to you? Come on.

    Whether you disagree or not, this post is just bad form. Your last post got your point across just fine (and I thought you made very compelling arguments) – this post just seems silly.

  7. Ask a Manager*

    Monica, thanks. I think that’s a thoughtful take on it.

    Jamie, I’m not infuriated that she deleted my comment, although it’s weird and worth remarking on. But I am definitely bothered about the insistence on giving damaging advice to people who might take it seriously, especially when people who actually have some expertise in the subject matter keep explaining how flawed and potentially harmful it could be to someone.

    Is it silly to use my blog to comment on something I disagree with on someone else’s? Maybe, and I thought quite a bit about that before originally posting on it yesterday. But when someone with a platform to send their views out to such a large audience gives such bad advice — and then emphasizes it a day later — I think it’s good for others to respond. I appreciate your take though.

  8. Jamie Varon*

    You know, I am all about responding to a post on your own blog, but this just felt like a jab. And, an unnecessary one.

    It’s weird she deleted your comment. I’ll agree on that.

    But, do you think this post was really necessary?

    I mean, hey, it’s your blog. You can respond to whatever you want – I just thought it was bad form.

  9. Ask a Manager*

    Meh, I don’t know. Is it a jab? Sure. I really hate that BC seems to be encouraging this idea that the most important thing a blog post can be is provocative, and that makes it okay for your content to be totally off-base. Do I want to jab back at that? Yes.

  10. Matthew*

    1. Her original points were good (some of them) – I still believe that preserving mutually negative relationships isn’t worth it. Obviously, it depends on the circumstances, but sometimes you can tell when you aren’t going to benefit from a recommendation or referral.

    2. She shouldn’t have deleted the comment. As bloggers – we have to be willing to take criticism, from all angles, otherwise, what are we writing for? For everyone to say ‘great post, I agree’? It might give you a little self confidence boost, but it’s uninteresting. When you write about topics like this and make bold statements, you’re going to take some criticism.

    3. This post was a little bit of a cheap shot. To each his own, blogs are for voicing your opinion, but it’s now just turned into back and forth banter – and of course people will agree with you on your home turf, and people with side with her. In the end, arguing on the internet is like running in the special Olympics. Even if you win, you’re still retarded.

    You guys should agree to disagree and move on.

  11. Kerry*

    See, Jamie, this is the point though: when you burn a bridge, people can and will talk smack about you.

    Like, for example, Rebecca’s decision to burn Ask A Manager’s bridge by deleting her comment and snipping back at her in response. That’s cool if that’s your method of dealing with things like this, but rest assured that AAM (and most everybody else) is going to share that story. That’s how the world works. You don’t get to operate in a vacuum, or choose what other people will share about their experiences with you. That’s why the original advice is flawed–even if it were true that “cool companies don’t check references,” it wouldn’t matter, because cool companies DO talk smack. People share their experiences. That’s human nature. If you burn a bridge, at work, on the internet, or anyplace else…people are going to find out about it.

    Honestly, it blows my mind that people can be out giving career advice before they’ve had a career (and here I’m speaking generally, not specific to Rebecca or Jamie) before they’ve even had a career. You can certainly have some great observations and insights at that stage of life, to be sure. But to throw down advice with such authority…well, some of these folks are walking around with a brass pair, that’s for sure.

    I would love to see a follow-up interview with some of these bloggers in 20 years, asking whether they regret either the advice they gave or the public manner in which they gave it. I’m kind of glad they didn’t have the internet when I was 22.

  12. Rachel - I Hate HR*

    I usually enjoy Rebecca but I think in this case she’s in the wrong.

    First, she gives bad advice. A better blog post would have been “Cool Jobs Won’t Check References.” Although even that wouldn’t apply to more than 2% of the population. How many of us are really getting “cool” jobs?

    Second, she freaks out when she gets back feedback and backtracks then does a follow up post to defend herself. This is a general no no in the blogging world since it shows fear and an inability to stand by your comments.

    Third, she gets defensive with you to the point that she deletes comments. Again a no no in the blogging world.

    The whole thing is just sad really.

  13. Kimberley*

    Thanks for the follow up post, or I may have missed Rebecca’s follow up post.

    To prove our point; a responsible hiring manager can Google any applicant’s name. If Rebecca had applied at our company, I would be sure to read what she’s written and it would definitely be on my mind when comparing her with other candidates. Would I have a problem hiring someone who doesn’t seem to care about “burning a bridge”? Absolutely!

  14. Anonymous*

    She misses the bigger point that some future employer (she’s Gen Y, she doesn’t stay at jobs very long, right?) could come across her post and decide not to hire her because of her willingness to burn bridges and she wouldn’t even know it.

    Least she come back with the idea that a “traditional” company is below her, as far as I know, there are three things that make a job great and cool, and none have anything to do with the name on the paycheck:

    1. Your boss
    2. Your co-workers
    3. You

  15. a. brown*

    That article (and its follow-up) is dangerously irresponsible, especially now when jobs are scarce. It’s similar to how Americans bought SUVs instead of planting Victory Gardens during our current war situation. What is the purpose of burning bridges but to get jabs in and feel a momentary sense of power? I’m not even sure how “burning bridges” is supposed to be defined.

    I felt this post was a little bit of a jab, but heck, it wasn’t too over the top, and you did give a valiant effort to stop misinformation at its source. All the posts I’ve read of yours have been top-notch so far, so here’s a fun-day for you.

    Speaking up is never a bad idea.

  16. Just another HR lady...*

    Maybe she should post a disclaimer that if she doesn’t like what you say, she’ll delete it? I thought blogging was all about free speech and causing discussion – good or bad, but who am I to say what blogging is supposed to be about, I’m not a Gen Y. :-)

  17. Raven*

    I’ve just finished posting a comment at Modite.

    Weird. I’ve never seen anything like this before. I’m with Monica: Wow.

    I’m not sure what all the huff is about. When I first saw the post, I figured it was more sensational than anything else. And, if you are smart – just take it for what it is.
    I think that good advice challenges you and makes you confront your own ideas.
    And, sometimes people can take prosaic advice and turn it into something else just for the sake of running someone’s blood pressure up (like Rebecca).

    But if you don’t like it – as you’ve let us all know, you obviously don’t have to follow it.

    I know I won’t.

    I don’t see anything wrong with AAM posting Rebecca’s email response. It’s an explanation (albeit, a poor one) on why she deleted the comment.

  18. The Engineer*

    Burning bridges is a colloquial way to refer to destroying a relationship. It does not mean you move on or away from the person. It implies a dramatic severance of all ties to the person.

    To me the most interesting aspect of her promotion of the acceptability of “burning bridges” is that one of generation Y’s supposed key characteristics is their ability to build relationships, particularly through technology. Here we have a “spokesperson” of this group stating relationships don’t matter if there is nothing in it for you right now.

    Fire burns hot. Sometimes there is no starting over.

  19. Erica*

    I think your post is the best example of why Rebecca’s “advice” is way off base.

    I do think that this blog post is a little “jabby”, but as someone who gleefully watched fights in the junior high cafeteria, I am grateful for it.

    What bothers me most about the deletion of the comment wasn’t that it was deleted (although that is irking me) but that it was originally deleted under the auspices of “inappropriateness” as opposed to “you disagreed with me, and now no longer exist.”

    It’s also hard to take advice seriously from someone who thinks “cool jobs” hire differently from what presumably are “loser jobs”?

  20. Monica O'Brien*

    Just caught up with this comments section.

    @The Engineer – please please do not assume this blogger is representative of Gen Y with these last two posts. These posts are not representative of me as a Gen Y’er in any way at least.

    @Jamie – I think this AaM post is completely fine. Maybe I just have different views on blogging, but IMO deleting a comment that is not spam is a definitive no-no because it defeats the purpose of conversation. Anyone who does that is going to get some flack for it.

    You say “get over it” because it’s “her blog, she can do what she wants.” Then you criticize Ask a Manager’s use of this blog? Seems like a double standard.

    The only thing I might have done differently is to ask Rebecca if I could publish her email. Which maybe Ask a Manager did, I don’t know.


    I don’t think the “Agree to disagree” assessment is fair. Rebecca created a second post to refute the opinion that Ask a Manager (and multiple others) laid out. Ask a Manager did not want to create another post, but was censored in Rebecca’s comments. What other choice was there?

    It seems like Rebecca is being unreasonable.

    Which is further shown in this update. Rebecca has responded extremely defensively to Ask a Manager yet again.

    Amazing. Personally, I think she is flying off her handle at this point.

  21. Anonymous*

    @The Engineer,

    Great point. If she had really thought about the analogy, she probably wouldn’t have used it. I’m sure she thought it just meant she wouldn’t be going back there, so no need for the bridge. The problem with fire is that it has a life of its own and can end up following you and burning your hind parts.

    Looking at the last two sentences of your third point, I can see that you definitely be in the job market. All the cool companies are looking for classy people like you to fill their cool jobs.

  22. Raven*

    Good Lord. If everyone weren’t so serious – this would be hilarious. I once wrote a post about how quitting without notice wasn’t as bad as everyone thinks and that burning bridges is a tad over rated. Needless to say, I think the problem is not so much the advice, but the reaction to someone being critical about it.
    I’ve been slightly annoyed with various Gen-Y bloggers and some of the “advice” they give, but it goes both ways. I’m sure not everyone agrees with what I say either sometimes.
    And, I checked out Rebecca’s comments policy – WTF? Is she serious?

  23. Chrissy*

    Kerry has the right idea. Rebbecca acted out her theory and it’s biting her in the – yes, I’m gonna say it – ass. I’ve never been a fan of BC or any of the “Gen Y” kids who spew bad advice in an effort to get traffic to their websites. The “Gen Y” folks I know are respectful and thoughtful and professional. I don’t know where these ones get their info (except perhaps straight from Penelope Trunk) but it’s just sad. And they are so high and mighty on top of it! They all talk about their “experience” as if a few years in the real world (or even a few months for a few of them) is enough to make them authorities. Thanks for writing this post. It has endlessly entertained me and I will be a new follower of yours, Ask a Manager. You’re my blog-hero.

  24. Kerry*

    Raven, I think “everyone is so serious” out of frustration. It is SO frustrating to watch people who are early in their career, and are encouraged to put out statements and blog posts that are going to harm them later.

    I once knew someone who had gone on Oprah (back when Oprah was doing more sensational stuff). She was 21 and thought it would be cool to be mildly famous. It was for a bit…but then when people started to recognize her in the grocery store and come up and judge her, it wasn’t so fun. That happened to her for YEARS.

    It’s frustrating to see these bloggers who are at the very beginning of their career, who are encouraged to put stuff out there that is going to be the equivalent of appearing on a talk show. People are going to talk smack about it and judge you for it LONG after you’ve changed and changed and changed again.

    I promise you that many of your viewpoints will change over the course of your life. It’s a little unfortunate for you that you’re coming up in the age of the internet, where you’re stuck with your earlier self haunting you forever. That’s true for all of us…but I’ve thought about this post all day, and I’m disturbed by the fact that there are people being encouraged to be as “out there” as possible for the sake of traffic. Unless you’re making a LOT of money off your blog (like, Dooce levels), it’s probably not worth it.

  25. Anonymous*

    I did a little bridge burning when I was more immature, but I think the only time it probably would not have a major negative impact is if it’s a situation where you aren’t planning on ever going back to that industry/location/job title–like a situation where you quit the factory job and leave the state! Can’t imagine someone working a corporate job doing something like that, but I guess people do all the time. I’m having a rough time at my current job and will probably leave soon one way or another, but burning bridges will just make a bad situation worse.

  26. Anonymous*

    Bridge burning is always a bad idea. Your former boss is often contacted whether you list them as a reference or not. Most applications ask for all of your former supervisors. I left on very bad terms with my last boss. I applied for jobs I was very well matched to for months without getting a single interview. Lots of interest, but no interviews. My old boss got fired (for many of the reasons that caused me to leave) and I immediately started getting interviews. Within weeks of his termination I had to choose between 3 great jobs.

  27. Ashley Jean*

    First of all, I read your blog regularly and I think you give really sound advice to job seekers out there. Second, this is your blog and you can write about anything you want. And who doesn’t vent on their blog? And you’re not just venting. You’re venting about the topic you dish out advice on. I don’t find this silly or “jabby”. You’re heated on a topic that you know a lot about it. Tell it like it is sister.

  28. Kerry*

    Anonymous at 7:44pm said:

    “I think the only time it probably would not have a major negative impact is if it’s a situation where you aren’t planning on ever going back to that industry/location/job title–like a situation where you quit the factory job and leave the state!”

    There’s no such thing as another industry/location these days. You can screw somebody over in California, and people in Europe can hear about it, thanks to the internet. Maybe that worked in 1909, but not today.

    You will be amazed at how often other people switch industries and locations too. People from your past will turn up in situations you never expected.

  29. Andy Lester*

    “if it’s a situation where you aren’t planning on ever going back to that industry/location/job title”

    You might plan that, but you never really know. The world is tiny today, people change jobs and careers and locations constantly.

    There is no reason whatsoever where it makes sense to alienate another person in the business world. None.

  30. Kathy*

    I quit a great job with wonderful employees and colleagues because of an abusive boss. She is still there (barely), and I was just turned down for a position by people who wanted in theory to hire me, but were afraid to upset her (they have to collaborate closely with her, and they were very honest about this). I felt it was a bridge I HAD to burn, but I am paying a price for it, despite having well over a dozen excellent references from various jobs (including this one). One miserable person can really make your job-hunting miserable; this should not be underestimated, especially in today’s market.

    Rebecca doesn’t know what the hell she is talking about, and is very immature to boot. I feel I won’t be free of the fear and trepidation I have each time I have a job interview because of burning this one bad bridge until my ex-boss leaves her position, and she writes so cavalierly about this, and then goes “WAH” when people try to tell her how seriously messed up her advice is if applied in the real world of so few jobs and many takers??!!

    Sometimes you may not have a choice to burn a bridge, but this is just terrible, terrible advice with real consequences that can cast a shadow for a long time. I wish I could give her a good, old-fashioned, uncool talking-to.

  31. Justin*


    I think that the original post was a bit short sighted and poorly worded, but what was SO bad about it?

    I agree that references are important. No doubt about that. Even if a former boss cannot comment officially about what kind of worker you were, they could informally comment, especially if the old manager and hiring manager know each other personally, but I think the point that Rebecca was trying to make is that you don’t need to put time and energy into an ongoing professional relationship with past bosses if you had a bad time working for them. What’s wrong with that? I don’t consider that bridge burning. It’s like acquaintances. I don’t see them or talk to them often, but I could if I needed to. Do managers expect that after you’ve worked for them, that you continue to email and call them for years afterward? I would find that quite strange. It might be helpful if you had a great time working there, but if not, I don’t see why you need to maintain a relationship.

    If ya ask me, this is much ado about nothing.

  32. Justin*

    The more I think about it, I see what’s going on here:

    1. Young, smart, attractive person says something provocative.

    2. Older folks flip out.

    This has been going since the beginning of human society.

    It does not matter whether or not the young person was right. It seldom does. Older folks flip out just the same.

    I may be young, but I have realized that older people don’t like when younger folks rock the boat, even just a little bit. They especially don’t like to be told that their way of doing things up to this point might not work anymore, and that they may have wasted time in the past.

    I also know that older folks get a tad bit jealous of younger people from time to time, and wish that they were at a point in life where they could say what’s on their mind and take their career whichever direction they want. Young folks who are smart, attractive, privileged, and unencumbered by kids, mortgages, marriages, routines, etc. especially draw older folk ire when they speak their minds.

    Now, I consider myself Gen Y, if maybe on the older end of the spectrum (I’m 28). Although I do realize that my generation might be a bit naive, idealistic, cocky, and inexperienced, what young generation isn’t? Let us be once in awhile.

    Like it or not, we will be running the world very soon. As a result, formal reference checks may very well go the way of the dodo.

  33. Ask a Manager*

    Oh jeez, Justin. I’m 35. I am friends with and work with plenty of 20somethings who are smart and speak their minds, and I’m glad they do. Rebecca was just wrong. It’s not that dramatic.

  34. Anonymous*

    I work in a place where the employees other than manager and above are 90% Gen Y, and have yet to see any of the stereotypical Gen Y attitudes and behaviors. If anything, the younger folks tend to work harder, because it’s not such a big deal to them if they have to work till 2 AM or whatever.

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