by Scott Tackett

Loyalty is an indispensable part of any relationship — personal or business.

It is also a two-way street.

If we expect loyalty from the people in our organization, then they, in return, expect loyalty from us. But what do we do when loyalty goes too far and starts to interfere with the performance of the company? When the devoted bookkeeper or hardworking operations manager no longer has the skill or the drive for the bigger organization the company has grown into. What about loyalty then?

It’s during times like these when our head tells us one thing, but our heart tells us another. And it is, admittedly, an uncomfortable position in which to be.

Business owners can be jaded with the idea that when they were half the size, the person did a great job, and now when the position and duties have outgrown the employee, they are struggling. In many cases, the employee simply may not have the aptitude, either mentally or physically, to perform the requirements of their current job.

As you can imagine, situations where a loyal employee can no longer handle their job well become even more complicated when they involve family members who are active in the business. But, as tough as it might be, you must keep in mind your loyalty and responsibility are to everyone in the company. When we allow poor performance to continue with one person, we’re compromising the security of everyone’s job and their opportunities for professional advancement.

Too often, we avoid having these types of candid conversations because we’re afraid of hurting someone’s feelings, or we want to avoid a confrontational situation. But when people see someone continuing to underperform without any interference from the owner or manager, they may question their own commitment to the company or their willingness to put in extra effort. As a result, one person’s poor performance often has a multiplying effect on the business.

Keep in mind that moving an employee out of an area where their performance isn’t measuring up doesn’t always mean you must move the employee out of the company altogether. It can mean finding someplace else within the company where their skills are better suited. Many times, these reassignments come as a relief to the employee who knew he was underperforming but didn’t want to disappoint or appear disloyal to the boss. And the reassignment doesn’t always have to be permanent.

What if you’re asking yourself whether this applies to you and your company… but don’t know the answer?

Too often, an owner doesn’t know what good performance looks like. Start by educating yourself on the performance standards required of each position in the company. This can be done by networking with or visiting similar companies and asking questions. It can also be done by participating in industry events or training programs or by working with outside companies who have expertise in your particular areas of need.

Once you become aware, then you must act to address the issue. I see many owners and managers who “talk a good game” about holding people accountable for performance, but back down because, “she has been with me for so long, I really owe her big time.”

The larger our business grows, the more impactful each of our decisions becomes. The longer we let an underperforming employee remain in their position, the longer we let an unhealthy relationship continue.

So, what happens if the loyal employee gets upset at being moved into a position better suited to their needs and decides to leave the company?

Realize that employee turnover is not always bad. Employees may leave companies for good reasons: a better opportunity, their spouse changing jobs, or a shorter commute. And maybe their feeling of loyalty to you and the company prevented them from being OK with leaving before. Or, it may have nothing at all to do with loyalty and they just needed to put themselves or their family first. Some owners have a hard time accepting this, but just as they must put the good of the company first, employees must do the same. Even the loyal ones.


Scott Tackett is a Business Development Advisor for Violand Management Associates (VMA), a highly-respected consulting company in the restoration and cleaning industries. He is considered the leading expert in restoration and cleaning for Human Resource Development and Organizational Leadership with over 30 years of experience. Through Violand, Tackett works with companies to develop their people and profits. To reach him, visit or call (800)360-3513.