Weekly Wrap: Lessons in Bridge Burning, Courtesy of Charlie Sheen

Got a bridge to burn? Charlie Sheen may be just the guy to help you out.

In case you missed it, Hollywood bad boy Sheen went ballistic yesterday and as the Los Angeles Times put it, attacked “his employers in vitriolic public rants.”

His employers – CBS and Warner Bros. – responded by announcing “that they would cancel the rest of the season of the hit sitcom “Two and a Half Men,” casting a pall over the fate of TV’s most-watched comedy.”

There’s no need to recap all that Sheen has been doing that got him to this point (you probably have heard a lot about it already), and of course, you’re probably wondering what Charlie Sheen’s latest rant has to do with talent management and HR?

Just this, as I put it in another blog last year:

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I’ve left some jobs in my time, and even when I was departing a company I was glad to be rid of, I always resisted the urge to unload about how I really felt as I happily danced out the door. That’s because: A) I was taught that it always makes sense to depart with class and dignity; and B) a wise and caring mentor once counseled me to always remember that “he who burns his bridges better be a damn good swimmer.”

Just like death is part of life, departing a job is part of working and having a career. Being able to walk away with class and dignity is a skill that everyone in the workforce needs to have, but it is especially important if you are a manager or executive.

The reason is simple: It’s because how people act in their most unguarded moments gives you a telescope into their real character. If someone badmouths the place that has employed them when it doesn’t matter anymore, what does that say to anyone who might think about hiring them in the future?”

Yes, Charlie Sheen has simply reconfirmed what we already knew about him (stupid, boorish, out-of-control, and seemingly addicted to drugs, alcohol and abusive relationships), but he also crystallizes the notion that bad mouthing your employers on your way out the door is one of the worst things you can do.

If CBS brings his show back ever, I’ll be shocked. And my guess is that Sheen will have a lot harder time finding someone in Hollywood willing to work with him than he seems to think. My advice on this last year is still just as relevant today:

Walking away from a job with class and dignity is the smart play, as my old mentor always told me, because it shows your personal integrity and good sense even when that job is coming to an end.

It’s also a smart play because, well, none of us are that good a swimmer to survive burning a bridge down behind us…”

Of course, there’s a lot more than Charlie Sheen and his latest rant in the news this week. Here are some other HR and workplace-related items you may have missed. This is TLNT’s weekly round-up of news, trends, and insights from the world of HR and talent management. Yes, I do it so you don’t have to.

  • Telecommuting a growing option in Atlanta. Anyone who has driven in rush hour traffic in Atlanta knows that it rivals cities like Los Angeles and Houston for the title of most hellish commute in America. And that’s why this story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution should give a glimmer of hope for traffic-bound commuters everywhere. “For the first time, state data shows teleworking has surpassed all alternatives to solo driving here as a main commute, including carpooling and mass transit. Last year, 7 percent of all metro Atlanta commuters teleworked for the majority of their commutes, a three-quarters increase over 2007, according to state Department of Transportation contractors. The percentage of commuters who telework as just an occasional option also rose, up by a third since 2007, the last time DOT studied the issue. “
  • Does IBM’s Watson want your job? Yes, seeing a well-programmed computer destroy two all-time champions in “Jeopardy” was fun, but what does all of it really mean anyway? Science columnist Dan Vergano of USA Today gets into that, including the notion that “computers and robots such as Watson have the potential to swipe not only assembly-line jobs, such as the manufacturing positions that dropped nationwide by one-third over the last decade, but the “knowledge worker” jobs of the modern economy, such as radiologists and lawyers.”
  • Finally, some good news about retirement savings. Yes, your workers probably aren’t saving enough for retirement (as Linda Robertson points out here at TLNT) but there is some good news – 401(k) accounts “managed by Fidelity Investment (have hit ) a 10-year high, the retirement plan provider said,” according to a story in USA Today. “The Fidelity study shows workers are remaining consistent with their contributions. The average amount workers defer from their paychecks into their 401(k) plans remained at 8.2% for the eighth straight quarter…. (although) that contribution level still falls short of the common advice of planning experts who recommend setting aside 10 to 15% of your salary.”

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of TLNT.com. A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and workforce.com, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at johnhollon@ere.net, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.

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2 Comments on “Weekly Wrap: Lessons in Bridge Burning, Courtesy of Charlie Sheen

  1. What happened to Charlie Sheen was no shocker to me. With all the bad publicity he was been creating for himself, this should come to no surprise t him either. I like the saying you used, “he who burns his bridges better be a damn good swimmer.” I have never heard this one before but I must say it happens to be an extremely truthful saying. I believe Mr.Sheen feels he is worth much more in his industry but he will soon come to find that everyone is replaceable and actions like his will not fly.

  2. I love how our class discussion included Charlie Sheen and then an article about him follows! For the past two weeks, many professors, PR professional that I’ve heard in conferences, and family members have been lecturing on the good ol’ “Don’t burn your bridges” saying. It’s refreshing to hear it again from a such a high-paid celebrity. I agree with Cmheinzel, no shocker to me either, that guy is insane sometimes with the stunts he pulls! I’m also glad that Watson could probably not be a master in PR, so I feel secure that he won’t steal my job.

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