Getting out of Limbo Land (part 2!)

Competition. Colour illustration.  540032

Ever keep an employee, even though you knew it was time to move on? They clearly violated your values, though they also brought vital skills to the table. As a result, you hold on to them, hoping they will change their ways.

Such decisions are made out of fear (not trust), and keep you in Limbo Land, constantly draining your time and energy with that difficult employee.

I had this experience with a team member whose behaviors were in clear violation of my values. After trying to establish some clear expectations, he continued with the same behaviors, and I struggled with whether or not to keep him. His results were great, but he also lied constantly which conflicted with one of my strongest values: “honoring your word.”

Had I refused to compromise on my values from the start, I wouldn’t have hired him in the first place. Though money had not yet exchanged hands, he had already lied and showed his true colors. Yet I hoped that with a bit of cash, he would change this behavior. Lessoned learned.

At one point, he literally said, “I need to get off the phone right now so I can get your page set up.”

The next day, when we talked, I asked him about the page and got this, “I haven’t even looked at that!”

When I mentioned our conversation from the day before, he responded, “Miscommunication!”

That was his persistent – go-to – response. It was almost as if he believed I would just appreciate what he was doing, rather than hold him accountable to his promises. And by not holding him accountable, I unintentionally agreed with his behavior.
A couple of weeks into the contract, I realized the real problem was our nonnegotiable conflict in values. While he cried out that, “I can never seem to please you no matter how hard I work, or how much I give,” all I heard was he didn’t want to honor his word. Period. Clearly, it was time to find a replacement.

He must have realized it too. The day he sent me an email saying that he was done, which was good. The only problem was I had already paid him.

When I asked him how he would like to deal with the funds, he said, “I think my work was worth the full funds.”


Lesson learned. Relationship closed. It was time to move on.

Second phase of getting out of limbo-land:

  • After communicating your expectations and giving the employee an opportunity to change, follow up by holding them accountable.
  • Communicate consequences for noncompliance and ask what the employee heard.
  • If they continually refuse to work within the boundaries of the agreement, move on. No matter how good his or her work is – it’s not worth the trouble you have to pay for it.

Remember: toxic people can easily infect the entire team – protect your tribe by letting go of the poison.


Thanks to Dexter Britain and Gillycuddy for their music contribution and LN Lurie for producing this podcast.

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