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Gaining Your Employees' Loyalty

Filed under Office & HR.

Loyal workers are invaluable but seemingly scarcer than ever these days. Gaining employees' loyalty involves walking a fine line between building a relationship based on mutual respect and concern without getting too personal.

In the not-so-distant past, loyal employees were the norm rather than the exception. There used to be an almost family-like relationship in employment, where employees and employers looked out for one another. The world and business along with it has changed though, and now employees look out more for themselves as employers no longer promise a lifetime career. People do not remain in jobs as long as they used to and will readily change jobs to get new skills, more money, and more responsibility.

Because high employee turnover can negatively affect the success of a business, what can an employer do about this new norm? You can work to engender feelings of mutual interest and concern between your business and your employees. Before employees will feel loyal to you, they have to know they can trust you to be fair, and to consider their interests as well as your own.

Gaining Your Employees' Loyalty

There's no foolproof method for gaining someone's loyalty, but many of the same things that hold true in a personal relationship apply in an employment relationship as well. The keys to a positive relationship are trust and respect. When employees feel respected, they will generally respect you and the business in return.

The following are some hints for gaining an employee's respect and trust:

  • Be ready to listen to the employee's questions and concerns about the job.
  • Treat your employees with respect, not as inferior people.
  • Be polite to your employees.
  • Recognize and reward your employees for a job well done.
  • Ask for your employees' input in making decisions that affect their work.
  • Gradually build trust in your employees by giving them additional responsibility or extra latitude in making decisions.
  • Treat all your employees fairly and impartially.
  • Be firm, but not tyrannical, when making decisions and disciplining employees.
  • Apologize or admit to employees when you were wrong.
  • Give employees credit where due.
  • Express genuine concern for employees' problems.
  • Keep your employees informed about work-related matters.

On the other hand, the following is what you should avoid doing:

  • Don't belittle employees (alone or in front of other employees or customers).
  • Don't lie to employees.
  • Don't build false hopes for raises or advancement.
  • Don't pass off your employees' work or ideas as your own.
  • Don't swear at employees.
  • Don't fail to lead your employees.
  • Don't treat your employees like children.
  • Don't allow yourself to be intimidated by aggressive employees.
  • Don't show disregard for employees' personal needs.
  • Don't talk about employees behind their backs to other employees.

Once employees feel that you will treat them fairly and sense that you care about them as people, you will be more likely to inspire in them a concern for the well-being of the business and the quality of their work. But keep it professional. Make sure that you don't cross any lines or make the employer-employee relationship too personal.

Keeping It Professional

It's tough to walk the fine line between trying to develop a relationship of mutual trust and respect and getting personally involved with your employees. No matter what happens, you are still in a professional relationship with your employees that requires a certain amount of distance.


While there's no law that says you can't get personally involved in your employees' lives, doing so can trigger complaints that you have violated harassment or privacy laws. It's easy to see that employer/employee boundaries are necessary to protect you and your business. Getting too personal is not a good idea.

Some of the problems that can crop up if your relationship with an employee is too close for comfort include:

  • an expectation on the employee's part that you will overlook mistakes, lateness, and other actionable problems
  • feelings of resentment from other employees who suspect favoritism
  • the potential for harassment claims from either the befriended employee or other employees
  • a reluctance to make unpopular decisions or exercise discipline on an employee for fear that you'll harm the personal relationship
  • a lack of credibility as a leader/supervisor
  • a propensity to tell the befriended employee information that is confidential or inappropriate to share

The bottom line? Be a concerned employer, but make sure that there's a professional distance between you and your employees at all times.

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