When Someone Recruits Your Top Employee

How should an employer respond when another shop is trying to tempt a top employee to jump ship? May 24, 2010

Someone is trying to take away my top employee, who has been with me for years. He not only runs my shop floor, but is also family. With these slow times I cannot justify hiring on another salary. Sales are slow and I am working hard at running the business end of things. I know - do not put all your eggs in one basket! We are a small company with a lot of experience and we have a great name. I believe when and if this blows over we will survive. If I lose him it will be an extreme challenge to make it all work. Any words of advice?

Forum Responses
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor S:
If you are paying him a good wage, treating him like he feels wanted, and he likes his work environment, I don't think you have much to worry about. If he leaves, deal with it at that time. Whenever I lost someone of value, things always worked out better than before. Start working a backup plan just in case.

From contributor O:
I understand how you feel. Don't stress too much over this. Focus on fixing your company and get two more employees who can do better than he does. Act very fast before it's too late.

From contributor V:
Funny how we are very loyal to our family, but when they are employees, they think they are deserving of everything the owner of the company has. I would guess he is one of your lower performers, but you overlook it because he's family. The other employees probably resent him.

Let him go to the greener pasture. You will find someone far more appreciative of the opportunity who will hopefully show loyalty to his employer without expectations. The only thing worse than family as an employee is a family member as an owner/partner.

From contributor V:
Could it be that he saw an opportunity and took it? I know that I always wanted to work for the best boss I could find, in the best company.

From contributor K:
Just looking at things from the other side of the fence. It could be that your other employees feel resentful of your family member. I speak from experience. It was my brother who brought me in here. I love working here but it was very difficult for me to get any credibility from the other employees. I had to work harder than anyone else to get ahead. It could be the same situation at your shop. That may be why he feels he needs to move on. In any case, he's family, so if he does decide to move on, give him a handshake and a pat on the back and wish him the best of luck. Remember what really matters - don't let work destroy your family!

From contributor G:
I don't understand. If he quits, just hire another person who will do the same job for the same salary. If there is no one else that will do his job at the salary you are paying, you know the reason he is leaving. Unless you make someone a partner you cannot expect them to work at a wage below their skill level just to help you out. They have a responsibility to themselves and their family.

From contributor W:
Simple. If the guy is seriously considering an offer or looking to get one, ask him why he is looking. What is he being promised that you don't or cannot provide? If it is all a case of more money and you cannot compete with that, ask if there is a different way for you to compensate him in order to get him to stay. You never know until you ask.

From contributor J:
This other shop or business that is recruiting your employee could be after a little more than your best worker. Change your password on your shop computer, or change the settings so it's not that easy for someone to lift your customer lists, pricing, copies of contracts, etc. Not that this worker is going to also walk off with all this information, but if he has had access to this for years he may feel it's also his work in getting or keeping your customers, etc. I've seen one local shop spend a lot of time and money getting a large share of local builders, only to lose 3/4 of them to a former employee who was building relationships with the shop's customer base. When this shop foreman left he took the guy's business with him. The shop owner went from 12 people down to himself, which also saved him in this recession. The other guy is going to be toast soon from what I hear. He grew to 20 people, bought CNCs, went for the brass ring and now doesn't have enough business to pay the overhead. Karma!

From the original questioner:
All of you bring up valid points. I am doing the best I can through these challenging times. I have always taken care of my employees. I treat everyone with respect and when things were good, I shared the wealth. Today, all I can do is fight to survive and get creative and keep advertising for new business. Some people will never have the guts to step up and take the challenge and risk to be in their own business. They would rather complain about what we do or what we have and what they don't have! I am putting in more hours than ever and making less money than ever. Employees don't feel that until we drop their pay or lay them off. When they make mistakes, we eat it, not them. If we charged them for their mistakes, they would leave.

From contributor B:
Times are indeed tough, but keep in mind it cuts both ways. I ran an ad on Craig's List a few months ago and had 150 responses in 2 days! A bunch of them looked very good indeed. A few years ago, when work was aplenty, about all who responded to a help wanted were losers, slackers, or worse. It was really hard to find decent help. Not so much now.