Golden Handcuffs Are Still Handcuffs

With the unemployment rate so low these days – here in Denver we’re down to 2.7% - organizations are getting nervous about losing their top talent. There’s been an uptick in talk about how to “retain” A players. Part of this talk includes golden handcuffs – a long-term payout or benefit that’s only realized if one stays at the organization for a certain number of years.

I’m not a believer in golden handcuffs, as they are still handcuffs which whiff strongly of entrapment and manipulation. Here’s just a few other reasons why I would avoid this strategy to gain employee loyalty:

  • What was once intrinsically and deeply motivated by the core character of your team member (commitment to your organization) is now a carrot on a stick.
  • Let’s say one day one of your A players would like to leave, do you really want someone to stay who doesn’t want to be there?
  • And if an unexpected opportunity arises for them, wouldn’t you want them to seize it, simply because you care about them?
  • What happens when there’s a downturn and that carrot begins to wilt?
  • Real loyalty isn’t bought.

Instead of golden handcuffs, encourage employee loyalty and longevity by:

  • Creating a workplace where employees feel good about coming to work.
  • Consistently centering the meaningful mission behind the work – have the work be worth their life’s work.
  • Encouraging camaraderie social super glue amongst team members.
  • Being a stand for their success by witnessing and celebrating their successes as well as supporting them in their struggles.
  • Listening and considering their concerns and empowering their suggestions.
  • Compensating based on the success of the organization as well as their ROI to the organization.

And do this always, regardless of the unemployment rate.

PS – Check out my great chat with Kevin Kruse on The LEADx Show! Click here to listen to the podcast, or click here to read on And don’t forget to grab a copy of Culture Works while you’re at it!


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