4 Signs You Are a Victim Of The "Employee Love Paradox"

Chris Young
June 27, 2008 — 2,068 views  
Become a Bronze Member for monthly eNewsletter, articles, and white papers.

As a manager or business owner, you will have your favorite employees.  It is human nature.

Many times this does not pose a problem… other times it does.  The question that must be asked is “Are you objectively evaluating the contributions and performance of your favorite employees or are these individuals being held to a different standard where other team members would be let go given a similar level of performance?”

It’s really an issue of blind love… and one that I have found often originates from working side-by-side with an employee or group of employees over the years – especially during emotionally and financially challenging times.  

A prime example I see all the time is that of a startup business.  Managers often have an incredibly hard time letting long-term employees go – despite poor performance – because they feel it would be harsh and disloyal.

I refer to this situation as the “Employee Love Paradox.”  It is characterized by the showering of praise and gratitude upon employees who have undeserved job security because they have been through “thick and thin” with their employer and have “put in their time.”  There is no doubt these employees are loyal and devoted to their employer, but the truth is that they add very little to the bottom line.  Herein lays the paradox.

Furthermore these employees can cause unbelievable turmoil with new hires expecting a fair playing field based on hard work and performance and can inhibit organizational/cultural change as they represent “the way things have always been done around here.” 

Please don’t get me wrong… loyalty to one’s employer is a great thing and I am not trying to suggest that an organization should not reciprocate this loyalty back to its employees.  However, I strongly feel that an organization should base its loyalty on those who are adding value to the bottom line as opposed to those who have been with the company for the longest period of time.

The following are four signs that the Love Paradox is alive and kicking in your organization:

1.   Politics Matters More Than Performance - The "who” matters more than the “what".  Meaning - organizational politics reign supreme and nothing makes sense other than the fact that "so-and-so" gets what they want despite the obvious damage or operational inefficiencies that result.  It is interesting to note that typically "so-and-so" was one of the first 5, 10, 25, or 50 employees and therefore part of the "protected class" of employees.

2.   Change Efforts Fail Miserably - Change is constant and the Employee Love Paradox protects employees who do not want to change.  I have seen some amazingly scary situations where the viability was in serious jeopardy and the employees needed to “get on the bus" and invariably some long-timers decided that they were not going to change.  What happens next is fairly predictable - the Employee Love Paradox sets in - the employee is allowed to continue their old habits and ultimately diminish the competitive position of the team.

3.   You Wonder...  How on earth did this person they get that job?  Often you hear people asking this question aloud.  The Employee who is constitutionally inept but in a position despite themselves.  This position is often one of management.  How did they get the job?  The answer - they were there amongst the first wave of hires (often the worst of the worst hiring records). 

Case in point - we have a large local warehouse business that I happen to love in Bismarck, ND.  One supervisor in particular is quite good at destroying Customer value as I have had a "run-in" with her a time or two and have observed how she takes care of Customers.  I recently asked a former colleague who works there, "What gives?"  He said, "She was one of the original hires when the store opened."  He gave me that "you know what I mean" kind of looks. Yeah...  I know what he means.

4.   Real High Performers Leave In Disgust - The real "Rainmakers" bail out and leave the laggards who cannot perform behind - further perpetuating the downward cycle.

Be careful that you are not in love with your employees for the wrong reasons.  Loyalty is a good thing.  Blind loyalty without performance accountability leads to the Employee Love Paradox – a bad thing.

Chris Young


The Rainmaker Group is a human talent maximization company specializing in helping organization maximize their bottom lines by improving employee retention, hiring the best talent possible, and strategic talent management and coaching services. From the Fortune 50 corporation to the small medical office, The Rainmaker Group guarantees lasting organizational change via a unique blend of energy, insight, and science to maximize talent, transform organizational culture, and provide strategic intervention.