I have had several clients over the years who had non-compete agreements with employees who later left the company and broke those agreements. In each case, the exiting employee took some client business with them – the thing that the non-compete agreement was supposed to insure didn’t happen.

The idea of the agreement is that by hiring a person as an employee, the company is giving that employee access to information, contacts and clients that they wouldn’t otherwise have – so, don’t use that access to hurt the company. Seems like a reasonable request on the part of the business owners.

Two basic issues arise from this breach of contract: one, the exiting employee is breaking their promise and two, they are taking clients from the business that they are leaving.

The first issue of broken promises is essentially the personal challenge of the exiting employee. Break enough of the promises you make and you won’t trust yourself – that’s not only a lousy feeling in general but a generally confusing relationship to have with yourself.

The second issue of lost business is the challenge of the business that hired the exiting employee. Indignation at the ex-employee is fine initially but as a long term attitude it’s the kind of judgment that keeps the issue alive and has the company focused on problems rather than opportunities. The place of opportunity isn’t really lost business but business in general – “what can we do to keep making our business better.”

Agreements are nothing more than temporary ways of organizing things. While they can be very useful, they can’t ever achieve the status of truth or permanent ideology. When they are treated as if they can become permanent then you have the Congress of the U.S. – a place where ideology rules, party line is sacrosanct and the bigger intention of organizing things is buried beneath ideas of what is right rather than what will work for everyone involved. Adherence to an agreement or organization of any kind that is no longer working suggests fear – fear that without the specified organization failure is threatening.

While I don’t condone breaking promises, I do like the idea of flexibility and readdressing issues within the current situation in order to look for new possibilities, new ways to organize things and new experiences. The companies that I mentioned above are all doing quite well and weren’t harmed in any significant way by the loss of clients.

While that’s not always the case, it seems useful regardless of what the impact of a broken agreement is to: reassess, reorganize and remain flexible rather than rigid for the simple reason that things change. Organization is always only temporarily useful regardless of dates and signatures on a piece of paper – Dreambounded Leaders surely feel fear when someone breaks an agreement, they just don’t become guided by it and waste precious time that could be opportunity guided instead.

  1. ConnieConnie01-17-2017

    Great article. Why is it so hard for people an organizations to be flexible? I love “Organization is always only temporarily useful….”
    Ok, and I did like your definition of the Congress of the US.
    Thanks for the article.

    • tedcasetedcase01-17-2017

      Thanks for your comment Connie – I hope all is well out there in snow-bound Colorado!

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