The Three R’s of Employee Retention: Part II

By Rich Lindblom, YSN

This is the second in a three-part series on how hold on to your best employees.

The Second ‘R’

In Part I of this series, I talked about recognition being the first key to keeping your good employees. So now let’s move on to the second of my Three R’s of employee retention, and that is earning their respect

When your employees truly respect you, money becomes less important because they want to work for you.  And when they want to work for you, it becomes less of a job and more of a mission for them.

So how do you make your employees respect you?  OK, that was actually a trick question, because I don’t believe you can make someone respect you. 

Just because you hand someone a paycheck every Friday doesn’t mean they have to respect you. The fancy nameplate on your office door, or the fact that your mom or dad put you in charge, doesn’t earn you an ounce of respect. In fact, it might actually cost you some.

The fact of the matter is that you must earn your employees’ respect.

I have told every single employee I have hired over the last 40 years the same thing: “I will never ask you to do something that I haven’t done before or wouldn’t be willing to do myself.”  I meant it when I said it and held true to my word every time. I believe that making that statement set the tone for the employer/employee relationship from Day 1.  If your employees believe that you respect them, more often than not they will reciprocate and respect you as well. 

If you ask me, the single best way to earn an employee’s respect is to lead by example. Be the first one there in the morning and the last one to leave at night.  And don’t be afraid to jump in and help wherever it’s needed.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cleaned the toilet or mopped the floor over the past four decades.  Why?  Because it needed to be done.  When the boss or owner pitches in and helps out with menial tasks it sends a message to the employees that you are all in this together.  And when employees see that, it creates a feeling of camaraderie within the organization. 

And whatever you do, don’t be the type of boss who spends ten minutes explaining how to do a two-minute job.  Instead of just telling them how to do something, jump in there and take the time to show them how to do it properly.  It actually serves two purposes: First, it lets them know what is expected of them, and second, it demonstrates that you practice what you preach. 

Finally, and perhaps most important, be honest with your employees.  The day that an employee catches you lying to them will also be the day that you have lost their trust forever.  And if your employees don’t trust you, they won’t respect you.  

On my last day at work after selling my company, one of my salespeople came up to me and said, “I just want you to know that you are the best boss I ever had.” I said something like, “You don’t have to suck up to me anymore.” To which he replied, “I’m dead serious. I respect the hell out of you. I always knew exactly where I stood with you, and if there was a problem you let me know about it. You were always honest with me.”

Needless to say, that made me feel good as I walked out the door for the very last time. And that is the kind of relationship we should all strive to have with every one of our employees.

Next Up: The Last “R” of Employee Retention

It’s always gratifying when someone reaches out to me after reading one of my articles because it struck a particular chord with them. So if you have a question or comment (good or bad) about something I wrote about, please contact me at I’d love to hear from you.