The thread above started by one of my professional heroes, Joshua Biggley, was about how if you’re the smartest person in the room you ought to find a different room. I agree completely, but sometimes it’s not about forcing yourself out of your comfort zone but rather extricating yourself from a person to whom you feel obligated.

At what point do these malcontents get voted off your island?

The reasons for maintaining the relationship can, and usually do, run the gamut from professional to personal depending how long you’ve known them. It might be a colleague, or a childhood friend, or just someone you’ve been acquainted with long enough that it’d be awkward to remove them from your virtual Rolodex. But when is enough enough? At what point do these malcontents get voted off your island?

Life is too short…

Here are a few of mine:

  1. Being openly racist, sexist, or homophobic (or a homophibian, as my dear friend refers to them). Life is too short to not celebrate individuality in all its forms.
  2. Bullying. This can sometimes stem from the above, but anyone taking advantage of someone else because they think they can or it makes them feel better about themselves will get my attention really quickly.
  3. Deliberately (or even just consistently) wasting my time by being late and/or not meeting commitments. The time on my watch is the same on yours — these days, to the millisecond.
  4. Not having some kind of drive to upgrade yourself at regular intervals. I joke about people having 5 years of experience when they’ve actually got one year of experience that they keep repeating. Don’t be that person.

So now that you’ve made your short list and drawn a line in the sand, do you serve these people their eviction notices or do you try to address the situation with them?

The frustrating answer is: it depends.

If it’s someone I think might respond to a heart-to-heart I may start by standing up a virtual boundary and gesturing to it while saying “I’m not comfortable with that particular interaction, so, no more of that for me.” If that works, great. If not, we upgrade the good neighbor fence to a moat and they get no more of my time.

If not, there’s always the scorched Earth approach. You just stop giving them any more of your time. Immediately. My wife says I have a mental switch in my head that I can flip about some things. Once I’ve made a decision to do something, especially when it comes to preserving my sanity, it happens all at once.

What are some of your limits? Once you’ve reached them, how do you wall those people off so they aren’t a drain on your limited resources any longer?

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