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Business Stockholm Syndrome

The cost of hiring and training staff is a significant investment, so as business owners, we can’t risk a bad hire. This usually means when we are facing such a reality in poorly performing employee, it’s easier for us to bury our heads in the sand and hope it’s just a phase or some behaviour altering full moon. The old ‘this too shall pass’ adage provides only momentary solace!

This entire situation is what I call Business Stockholm Syndrome! Hereinafter referred to as BSS!

Now, ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ was a term coined by the media in 1973 when hostages of a bank robbery developed a psychological alliance with their captors. BSS is where we as owners are held captive by our bad people decisions due to cost, time, effort and stress! So, we start to justify our decision, make allowances for it to continue rather than face the failure and corresponding time, money and stress issues!

Let’s consider the facts of a bad hire, say a good performer with a bad attitude that is creating chaos inside the team:

We know this person is bad for the business, team performance and culture.

Despite this, instead of facing the situation and dealing with the obvious problem, we circumnavigate or ignore the issue smacking us in the face or on our bottom line, because ‘we need them’.

Seemingly, there is an alliance because the employment of the person remains.

We can see onlookers, being other employees or clients, giving us glaringly obvious signs of dismay, possibly telling us directly how crazy we are and often feeling the effects of the situation that they can’t control.

I am yet to find anyone in business who hasn’t experienced BSS, and we all bear the scars, but like most syndromes or diseases, there is an antidote, treatment or cure, and in this case, an all in one:



  • Do everything you can to mitigate the risk. Know the role you need to recruit, know the team you’re recruiting into, and the best experience, skills, capabilities and attitude to fit every aspect.

  • Interview thoroughly, leave no stone unturned. Act as if this random stranger has turned up to your office and asked for a loan of $120,000 that they will pay back to you in labour over a year. What would you want to know in order to hand over your hard earned cash and give them access to steer your businesses reputation and performance? Strange concept hey!

  • Interview the people who have worked with them previously and confirm what you do, and don’t know. Otherwise known as reference checks!

  • Do a behaviour profile! Honestly, they can nearly predict how this person will behave in certain circumstances and allow you to see if that’s what you need.

  • And finally, get a second opinion, have someone you trust in your team meet the candidate as well.

  • Be thorough, be careful, be sure. You might have a seat to fill but a vacant seat for a little while longer is far better than having one set on fire in the middle of your business capable of causing widespread damage!

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