$16 billion.
That’s the number 16 with nine zeros, in case you’re wondering. It’s what Facebook paid to acquire   WhatsApp in 2014. Now, I know money doesn’t buy loyalty, but for $16 billion, you’d expect just a little respect toward your previous employer.
Well, you’d be wrong. Very wrong.
The co-founder of WhatsApp, Brian Acton, who quit Facebook earlier this year to start his own foundation, just tweeted this:
It is time. #deletefacebook– Brian Acton (@brianacton) March 20, 2018
Now, here’s the deal.
I know Facebook is under a lot of pressure, and all of it is 100 percent deserved. I won’t disagree with that at all.
But it’s downright wrong for the founder of a company that–to remind you again–got acquired for $16 billion to do this so publicly. The hashtag makes it even worse. I almost didn’t believe it was true at first.
Here’s why.
You don’t need to be loyal to former employers, but you do need to respect them.
You don’t have to be loyal to anyone that pays you money. However, you do have to show respect toward your previous employers if they treated you right.
Loyalty is working for a company or a manager for a period of time because you’re doing what was expected of you. Once you fulfill your duties, you’re free to do what’s in your best interest. As far as I know, Acton fulfilled his duties before leaving.
Once you leave to do your own thing, there’s an unstated rule that you should never knock down your previous employer, regardless of the situation. That’s called respect.
If that employer treated you well, it’s earned your respect–and what Acton did was pretty disrespectful. He knocked down his previous employer–one that made him a billionaire–at the worst time possible.
Go ahead and say bad things during private dinners and conversations. Don’t say them publicly unless you’re prepared for them to affect future business relationships
Never burn a bridge if you don’t have to.
I get it. Sometimes, you just get so fed up that burning a bridge is the best possible outcome.
I remember a manager that I desperately wanted to tell off before I left a company. It took every strength in my body to say “thanks for everything” as I left. He didn’t deserve any nice things said to him. Trust me.
Well, a few years passed, and now he’s a great client of mine. We get along better than ever before, all because I didn’t burn any bridges. Turns out, it was the environment that caused us to not get along.
I’m never a fan of burning bridges, and Acton just burned the biggest bridge of life. His tweet is practically the definition of unnecessary bridge-burning.
Loyalty and respect aside, Zuckerberg has riches–and he uses them to invest in humanitarian efforts. Remember, Acton left Facebook to start his own foundation. If he decides that he wants to partner in investing in future companies or helping in philanthropic efforts, there’s one person who for sure won’t be picking up his call.
This puts Acton at a severe disadvantage in the short term and long-term. He potentially pushed away a great partner in future endeavors.
If you burn a bridge, it’d better be worth it. I’m not sure Acton chose the right person or time to do it.
If you’re thinking about publicly disrespecting a company in the future, you probably shouldn’t. Even if you’re like Acton, who probably has plenty of money lying around, it’s still not a wise move. It’s a short-term move with long-term consequences.

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