When burning your bridges goes right – and horribly wrong | Bim Adewunmi

Taylor Grey Meyer’s high-risk rebuttal to a prospective employer may lead to greater heights, but it doesn’t work for everyone

Have you ever applied for jobs within a single company more than 30 times? Taylor Grey Meyer has. She sent applications for a variety of jobs with the San Diego Padres, a Major League Baseball team in the US, and was declined every time. Then one day, Meyer got an email. It was from the Padres, asking her to attend a jobs event that would allow her to meet prospective employers and possibly fill one of the 50 jobs they had vacant. The event, called a “Combine”, would cost her $495. An exasperated Meyer sent a reply, a missive that would make the famed “Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells” blush. An excerpt below:

“After careful review, I must decline. I realise I may be burning a bridge here, but in the spirit of reciprocity, I would like to extend you a counter-offer to suck my dick … Maybe you’re right. Maybe I’m not the best fit for your company. But here’s a nice fit, my foot in your ass.”

It was, to put it mildly, a strongly worded letter.

Meyer told a newspaper: “I am not embarrassed, I have no regrets sending it.” The happy ending here is that the letter went viral, and Meyer has received several offers to meet with prospective employers. It’s very easy to have no regrets when your case is picked up by the internet and people are sympathetic to your frustrations. New and unexpected job offers provide a perfect cushion, away from the smouldering wreckage of your actions. But what happens when you burn your bridges so spectacularly you’re left with no refuge, no offers and no friends? Unsurprisingly, Hollywood offers prime examples.

The idea behind speaking your mind and damning the consequences is supposed to be one that is rooted in a person’s “principles”, an often amorphous set of values no one ever seems to define until necessary. Marlon Brando, in refusing his Academy award for The Godfather in 1973, was decrying the poor treatment of Native Americans. Arguably, Brando had nothing to lose – at this time in his career, he was less an actor than Marlon Brando, The Legend™. But even if he had, he was the type of fellow to stand up, alienate whoever he wished to and remain beloved. People such as Brando can deliberately and successfully burn bridges, and are genuinely at peace with their decisions. And when people sense that, they happily give a pass. It doesn’t work for everyone, obviously.

The high-risk dramatic gesture can be liberating and take you on to greater heights, but for the ill-prepared, it can come at the cost of a career. Ask Jean-Claude Van Damme. In the nineties, coming off the high of his wildly successful film, Timecop, he was offered a $12m film deal. Van Damme “negotiated”, asking for $20m (to match Jim Carrey’s salary). Imagine the insanity of asking for a 67% pay rise. He’s aware of what that sounds like: “The people will read this and say, ‘What a fucking piglet.’ I wanted to play with the system. Like an idiot. Ridiculous. I was on the blacklist. That was it.” It’s the equivalent of extravagantly saying you won’t get out of bed for less than $10,000 … and then no one calling. The lesson: miscalculate your influence, and you might as well be emptying the can of kerosene on the bridge while lighting a fag.

There also exists a further group of bridge-burners: those who seem less stuck on principles, and just have a seemingly weird breakdown of common sense. Michael Richards went on his comedy club rampage, calling two African-American hecklers the n-word, and referencing lynching. Mel Gibson has had his more infamous moments – the antisemitic comments at officers when he was arrested for drunk-driving being the most obvious. Both men went on public “apology tours”, claiming their behaviour was born of an extreme situation. Both careers have suffered somewhat, but crucially they’re still working – and have their high-profile supporters.

Perhaps it’s harder to fully burn your bridges when you’re a white man in Hollywood. In the words of that apocryphal lecturer who tells his class: “If you’re above average height and really good-looking, you can zone out of this lecture. Everyone else, listen up.”

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