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The Workplace Exit: Better to Burn Bridges or Mend Fences?

After YSL childishly removed all traces of their outgoing boss, it got us thinking—when fired, is it better to burn out than fade away?


What if today was your last day of work? If you were told that you no longer work here, how would they handle it? Would they honor you with the gold watch stereotype? The noble handshake, the honor guard of your peers as they retold anecdotes cementing you as a true champion of the workplace? Why, Darryl, why go? Weep the shrunken, betrayed eyes of the multiple work-baes, the one that neither of you bothered to break the ice with. As the drum kit played out your poetic and bitterly accepted exit, you know you need to say nothing beyond a fist pump in the air and fade to black.

Or would your disappearance go unnoticed by the cretins in upper management beyond the exchange of, “What happened to Darryl?”

“What happened to Darryl?”


Moreover, given that situation, how would you handle it?

Why the proverbials? Well, take for example how designer label Yves Saint-Laurent honored the outgoing Hedi Slimane by completely whitewashing their Instagram account, replacing Slimane’s work with the mug of the man who replaced him.

Flame on.


Source: Instagram

Which got us to thinking, While that is a fashionable exit, surely it could be bettered?

So we asked some people to see if we can answer the question: Is it better to burn out than fade away in the workplace?


Graham, 43

I let someone go, but they wouldn’t leave. This employee wasn’t up to standard: he was late, took zero responsibility for his area, couldn’t take constructive criticism. So, the decision was an easy one. In theory. I told him that he had the rest of the day and that was all. He agreed with a nod. No emotion, no nothing. All good, so far.

Until the morning, when he walked through the doors of the call center. He wished us all “Good Mornings” and promptly got to work. So, I approached the shared desks we had and audibly asked him what he was doing here. You know, loud enough so his team members would either a) jump in or b) explain what the situation was. Unfortunately, I got no response.

I approached him again just before lunch, and told him that he no longer works here, and he needed to leave immediately. He agreed with me with a nod.

I returned from lunch to find him still there, tapping away. I asked him to leave. He agreed that he would, but he needed to finish up the task he was on; the one that he was on, prior to him being sacked. I thought, Well, what the hell. It needed to be done, and he was no longer on the payroll, so I let him stay. After all, he agreed to leave.

This whole scene played out for an entire week. He was there, I’d ask him to leave. He would do so, after the report was done. Manhandling him was absolutely out of the question, due to potential lawsuits, etc., but needless to say by Friday I was willing to test that theory.

So, on that Friday, I moved my desk to his, to try and psyche him out. Which was also a mistake. I tried to engage him in small talk so I could coerce him to leave, but every time I did, he’d look up at me with annoyance, gesturing toward the file on his desk, like I was inconveniencing his busy workday.

Long story short. He finished the task. And, it was rather good.

I never got to fire him. Instead, I moved him to another office.

He’s a Regional Manager now.


Brad, 22

Not something I’ve done, but something I’ve seen done. It was a coworker of mine, we both used to work in a large storage warehouse, and to move everything around we used those motorized forklifts you can stand on.

Anyway, he and I both got let go on the same day. Jia didn’t take it very well. Muttering under his breath, dreaming of revenge, he commandeered the nearest forklift and made a beeline for the nearest pile of stock he could find, which happened to be a pile of plasma televisions. Jia’s eyes lit up, but he clearly overestimated the speed of the forklift, so his scream of “Banzai!” had morphed into complete gibberish by the point of impact, which didn’t live up to Jia’s expectation.

The forklift bounced off harmlessly as Jia’s shriek was cut off by the impact. He sounded like a CD skipping. I’ll never forget it.


Jim, 23

In my hospo days, I walked out in the middle of a Saturday evening shift. [Why?] Because they cut my shifts as they took on yet more staff. So, I knew it was personal. At that point I was senior, so I waited until I was rostered on with the new staff and then made my exit.

Still the best exit of my life.


Sarah, 30

Mine was more the reaction if anything. I knew I was being sacked, so by the time that the actual moment came, I had already dealt with it. The Big Boss, palms open, face understanding obliquely explained all the reasons, but in a nice way. A way that blamed everyone and not just me. So, I stopped him mid-sentence and explained that I already knew this was coming and he should save his breath.

I saw all the color drain out of his face, and suddenly he was a man possessed. Ranting, raving, arms flailing, telling me what he really thought of me, and asked how I could come into his building and disrespect his office. Clearly, he wasn’t ready for this outcome, and thusly hadn’t thought out his insults, so everything was a nonsensical question, until I got up to leave, which enraged him more, so much so that he brought his fist down on his desk and had to mask the pain he was in for the rest of his rant.


Brian, 52

After I was let go, my legacy to the office was a rather large email outlining all the gossip I’d overheard.


Ahoy TBSers! If you have a workplace story of sour grapes a better vintage than this batch, leave it in the comments section!




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