Be Honest … Is Employer Loyalty To Long-Time Employees Actually Hurting Your Business?


“So often times it happens that we live our lives in chains
And we never even know we have the key.”


Remember the old saying that you should dance with the one that brought you here?


Well, not so fast.


Sometimes the set list changes and you need to find High Impact Talent or HIT® to keep the show going. You need to break you the chains that are binding you from your growth potential.


Employer Loyalty has been debated a lot in recent years. The days of workers spending their entire careers at one place are basically long gone. Things have changed dramatically. Technology has redefined workflow, roles and responsibilities. Some employees can adapt and grow and help you create transformational change that fuels profitable growth.


Others, quite simply, cannot. And that’s where you need to be totally … even brutally … honest with yourself about how your workforce is configured and who can get you to the next level of success.


Many of my clients have long-term employees that have been super-loyal and in return, the business owner is very loyal in return. That’s great – to a point. Loyalty is a fine quality unless it is killing your company.


So What’s The Problem With
Employer Loyalty To Longtime Employees?


The reality is that being loyal to employees who have maxed out their capacity, value and ability to grow the business and can actually become an emotional albatross on business owners. They want to do the right thing by their people and sometimes that isn’t healthy for the long-term success of the company


It’s just real-world business sense to recognize that they no longer have the skills, experience or ability the company needs. And that’s okay. Hard, but okay. And necessary.


When Get Right Down To It, You Really
Only Have Three Practical Options.


  1. Have “The Talk” with them and bring in someone above with the capacity you need.
  2. Things happen: your loyal employee gets coaching and mentoring, you get the skill and experience you need to grow your business.
  3. Find a new role for them in your company or just let them go. And yes, it’s hard.


My experience is that even when you try the first or second options they end up exiting either on their own or because of poor performance or sour grapes. Either way, it is one of, if not the biggest barrier to growth and hardest decision a mid-market business owner will make. So it’s critical that you lead your team through it all and help everyone adapt. You will certainly soon realize that some people are well suited to the changes that must be made, but some aren’t — and you’ll have to let several good employees go.


“I’d rather have a star performer for three years than a dud for life.”
                                                                                                Leigh Grantham
                                                    VP Marketing & Administration CHELCO, FL


No serious business leader today denies the importance of employer loyalty in concept. It’s how that dynamic has changed that’s the challenge. The lifetime “Social Contract” between employers and employees expired long ago. The very nature of the relationship between employers and employees has undergone a fundamental shift: Today workers not only don’t expect to work for decades on end for the same company, but they don’t want to. They are largely disillusioned with the very idea of loyalty to organizations. But, at the same time, they don’t really want to shift employers every two to three years for their entire careers. Similarly, companies would grind to a halt if they had to replace large portions of the workforce on a similar schedule.


Remember To Watch Your Salary Cap.


But this doesn’t have to be a Catch-22 situation. It could very well be the best opportunity you have now for future growth. Think about a sports team. The “star” your team broke the bank to bring on board five years ago is just a shadow of the player he once was. And you’re shelling out serious cash and getting no improvement or a chance to “win” any longer. No bang for the big bucks.


I have talked to owners across a variety of industries and the song remains the same: they came to difficult conclusion that payroll could be better applied to sign new, more versatile and capable High Impact Talent.


However, the cost of carrying these highly paid employees, and the damage to the organization of keeping them on board, make these tough decisions necessary. And the worst thing you could do is to do nothing.


Because one day, your problem becomes acute. When you really do have to take action.


The decision to terminate an employee is never easy. Firing someone you’ve worked with for years, especially someone you know and respect, is often gut-wrenching. It’s pretty much impossible to take the emotion out of what is a very personal decision, regardless of how right it has to be on paper.


So amid all of these conflicted feelings, how do you know if your employee is still an A-player worthy of another chance? How do you know when enough is enough?


Let’s assume you’ve done everything right up until this point—you’ve delivered honest and constructive feedback about your employee’s performance. You’ve set realistic goals and objectives for him or her to meet, with a concrete timeline to follow. And of course, you’ve asked your employee for his or her input around how to improve performance as well. From a management perspective, at least, you’ve done everything in your power to set expectations, give guidance, and empower your underperforming employee to step up to the plate.


If that still doesn’t work, what then? Ask yourself the following three questions to help shed light on the right course of action:


  1. Is your employee meeting the responsibilities listed on their job description?
  2. Can the market offer you a better employee at the same price?
  3. If the employee resigned today, would you fight to keep them?



Hard questions that need smart, hard-nosed decision making. And there is no substitute.


You might want to check out our article “Right Place, Wrong Time –  Get it “Right” When You’re Looking for High-Impact Talent to learn how to attract the Talent you need.


Stay tuned to Talent, Tunes & Tidbits as we explore more about employer loyalty and long-term employees that have maxed out their potential in the next issue.




Corey Harlock
Principal Consultant


Make Your Business Rock!

Thank you to the following sources:
Jodi Glickman is a keynote speaker and founder of communication training and leadership development firm Great on the Job. She is the author of Great on the Job and a contributor to the HBR Guide to Getting the Right Job. Follow her on Twitter at @greatonthejob.
Alicia Bassuk is a leadership designer and coach, speaker, author, and founder of leadership development firm Ubica. Clients include professional athletes, C-level executives, presidential appointees, entrepreneurs, and other leaders internationally. She is currently writing a leadership book for McGraw-Hill (2019), When No One is Looking Take the Lead: 16 Weeks to Perpetual Progress. Follow her on Twitter at @aliciabassuk.

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