Long-Term Employee Retention – Blessing or Curse?

Tuesday, November 24 2015

Long-term employees can be an asset when you want to sell your business; but they can also be a liability. Some business owners face the difficult situation of what to do about employees with many years of service, who no longer contribute to the company’s success. Indeed, these individuals can be toxic, modelling unproductive behaviour that costs far more than their salary.

If you were a prospective buyer of your company, would you consider such an employee an asset or a liability?

If you have long-term employees who are no longer contributing in a meaningful way, it’s time to act. They must measure up or move on. “But,” many owners tell me, “It will cost a fortune to get rid of them.” True. It will cost you a lot if you haven’t taken these important steps:

  • Set clear expectations
  • Put corrective action reports in their file
  • Make it clear that non-performance is not acceptable

But what’s the cost of keeping problem senior staff?

  • Although you are paying a premium salary based on seniority, their performance is sub-par. This standard is not acceptable and sets a bad example for younger employees. They are not worth the salary they’re paid and they negatively influence the value of others.
  • Their attitude will lose you customers and other good employees.
  • They have a tendency to undermine you and the work you are doing. They believe they know how to run your business better than you.
  • Everyone knows there’s something off-putting about these individuals, but are too polite to mention it.
  • When you don’t address bad behaviour, you condone it. The consequence is a culture that is dysfunctional, unhappy, and unproductive.
  • If you don’t deal with difficult employees today, you’ll face all the negative results of their behaviour, and you will still have the problem tomorrow.

Most business owners I’ve met are too patient, too generous and prefer to avoid conflict. They put up with too much! And instead of being rewarded for their “nice” behaviour they get less respect. A recent article in Canadian Business Magazine cautioned, “You can’t coddle your employees to greatness.”

Owners need to take responsibility and deal with those employees, sooner not later. You are complicit in their behaviour; your inaction has taught them what’s acceptable. Don’t leave that problem for someone else to deal with. It’s not fair to you, the employees, or the new owner.