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Are you retaining employees who intimidate you?

November 1, 2009
by Bernie Reifkind
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If you Google “employee retention” there are more than 1,960,000 pages devoted to this very hot topic. There are companies that earn a fortune by consulting on the best-practice ways to retain employees.

What happens when business owners and managers retain employees longer than they should? Have you ever found yourself in that position? If you haven't, then you are among the fortunate minority. Can successful employee retention work against you? You bet. In fact, negative retention can be detrimental, becoming a cancer to an otherwise healthy organization. So why retain an employee long after an employee's useful professional life?

There are four main reasons:

  • Laziness (Why rock the boat?)

  • Loyalty (Fair enough, but never forget that you are running a business.)

  • Costs (That's not a good enough reason, considering lost opportunity costs.)

  • Intimidation/fear (You could get sued!)

Believe it or not, intimidation is a key factor for many organizations that hold on to an employee way too long. Why? Fear of unfounded lawsuits, headaches, morale issues, “upsetting the applecart,” the irrational and false belief that someone cannot be replaced. Everyone can be replaced. That being said, many employers are actually intimidated by their staff. Doesn't that sound peculiar? This is very common in industries such as assisted living and long-term care due to the shortage of nursing staff. Employers are intimated by the people they employ!

Consider this: The fastest growing insurance is “employer liability insurance.” This type of insurance is not your father's Workers Compensation insurance. Employer's liability insurance covers your business in the event that you are sued by an employee claiming that the conditions they work under caused them to be injured or become sick (physically or emotionally). In addition, it can cover lawsuits for wrongful termination, sexual harassment, and the most common forms of discrimination.

We live in a litigious society and you, as a manager, are exposed to possible lawsuits at any time, no matter your intentions or knowledge. Your business should not be without this type of insurance. Your focus should be on healthy, positive retention in keeping an employee because that person is vital to the success of your organization. Why else would you hold on to an employee?

Never let intimidation become a factor in employee retention. Honor your best employees by surrounding them with the very best talent and offer them respect, loyalty, and courtesy. After all, isn't that what you want from them?

Bernie Reifkind is CEO and founder of Premier Search (, a healthcare executive search firm in Los Angeles. He can be reached by e-mail at or (800) 801-1400. Long-Term Living 2009 November;58(11):40