Want to Shorten Your Employee Retention Strategy to Just One Word?

Any business that loses a top performer because of a lack of respect has two choices: quickly make it right or watch your people flee.

By now any hope of re-establishing a pre-pandemic sense of workplace “normal” is all but a distant vapor and the wisest of companies gave up that ghost long ago. They have shredded their old 4-inch-thick retention playbooks and rewrote a brand-new shorter version that literally contains one word . . . RESPECT. A global study of 20,000 employees published in Harvard Business Review conducted with HBR and Tony Schwartz (‘Half of Employees Don’t Feel Respected by Their Bosses by Christine Porath’) more than validated their words, or should I say their one word. With a statistic like 92% of employees expressing greater focus and prioritization when feeling respected and 89% expressing greater enjoyment and satisfaction with their jobs when feeling respected, who needs more words?


Our own research has brought another compelling revelation to light as to why the lack of respect is so widely reported among employees. We surveyed over 1000 frontline supervisors who scored in the lowest quartile on “interpersonal relationships” by their teams as reflected on employee engagement surveys. Two themes were uncovered in the follow up interviews when asked why. One was, “I don’t have time to be nice.” And two, was “I am just modeling the behaviors I get from my boss.” Wow. There’s a lot to unpack there in several more blogs. But perhaps the most important aspect of those findings was how surprised these leaders were by their low scores, as they thought everything seemed to be going just fine.


Which brings me to a sobering fact for all of us people leaders. We have blind spots. Big blind spots. We don’t know what we don’t know. As a result, we end up treating people either in the same way we want to be treated, or as part of a self-promoting offense strategy, we desire to protect our own careers by making sure we stay tight in the CEO’s or Owner’s inner circle by modeling their behaviors in hopes of winning an extra dose of approval. Problem with that strategy is you can’t do the job of a team of people, and you’ll be losing them on a weekly basis faster than you can hire them - that is if you can even find them to hire!


So, it starts with each of us to turn this lack of respect thing around. Take the time to ask each of your employees to define what ‘respect’ looks like for each of you. Clarify those behaviors, talk through the process, and make the commitment to demonstrate them regularly with each other. If you’d like help on how to have a that conversation check out my other posts and book. No matter how we spell it, R-E-S-P-E-C-T is the new one word strategy and for greatest impact in this new workplace we’re calling N-O-R-M-A-L going forward.


Merrylue Martin is the author of The Big Quit Survival Guide. The book describes how to retain your best people, how to wow the best new hires and deal with the challenges of remote and hybrid workers, and gives you access over 30 printable Survival Tactics to immediately act upon!

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The Big Quit Survival Guide

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