Five Signs that an Employee is Holding You Hostage


Have you ever been in a situation where you were so deep in the day-to-day issues of your business that you didn’t see what was going on inside your own walls? Or perhaps you do indeed know what’s happening inside your own walls – but you always say that you will deal with the issue later, in the hope that it will simply disappear?

Regardless of where you are on this spectrum, we all have times where we struggle with our employees. Sometimes, though, the struggle is more than just a disagreement. Sometimes, what’s happening is that your employee is holding you hostage and you’re not even aware of it.

What follows are five telltale signs that you have an employee who is holding you and your retail operation hostage.

The Five Hostage Signs

One: You have to walk on eggshells around the person: You know the type of person I’m talking about. If you bring up a certain topic to this person or provide them with any negative feedback, they will explode. And it will be ugly. Part of being an adult, however, is knowing how to handle negative feedback. When you have an employee that everyone must dance around issues on due to fear of their reaction, they are, in fact, holding you hostage. It’s time for them to grow up or move out.

Two: They blame others and/or they are constantly making excuses: When an employee will never own up to their mistakes and they’re constantly blaming others for things that are actually their responsibility, there’s a good chance that your employee is holding you hostage. A good employee, on the other hand, will always own up to their mistakes and, importantly, they’ll work to find ways to fix those mistakes.

Three: You never get a straight answer: It’s never a good sign when an employee evades a question/issue, or constantly gives you a “I’ll have to get back to you on that” response. You are employing this person to solve a problem(s), and if they can never give you a straight answer, there’s a good chance they are holding you hostage.

Four: They make it seem like no one else could possibly do their job: Do you have an accountant who wants you to believe that you could never understand the books without them? Or perhaps you have a salesperson on staff who says that you would never be able to relate to their customers? Chances are very likely that they are holding you hostage. You are the owner or manager of the business, of course, and you have the ability to continue the business with or without them. It’s the very rare employee who is actually indispensable.

Five: They turn other employees against you: When an employee is talking behind your back and turning other employees against you, this is a major sign that you have an employee that is holding you hostage. Regardless of the reason your employees are turning against you, it’s your job to put out the fire. If it is a problem employee, deal with this employee face-to-face and make it known that you are in charge.

How to Handle the Situation

While dealing with an employee who is holding you hostage is never fun, it is important to deal with the employee swiftly in any of these situations. The way you handle this situation will be communicated to others in your company, and they will then take cues on how to act based on the situation.

Sara Hey is vice president of business development and a speaker at Bob Clements International ( and the co-author of “You’re the Problem (and the Solution!),” which addresses the seven habits that profitable dealers consistently exhibit. Bob Clements International works with dealers across North America, helping to implement processes, increase profits and eliminate chaos from their dealerships. Contact Sara at or 800/480-0737.