There’s an issue that keeps popping up over and over again. I’ve got to be honest: This issue is one of my biggest pet peeves, and I’ve been hearing about it from so many people lately.

Now, I’m fired up about it.

What is the single fastest way to drive a great, hardworking employee to lose faith in your company? You got it – mess with their money. As much as an employee may love their job, the No. 1 reason they get up and go to the office day after day is financial. They have bills to pay.

And yet, somehow, these fishy financial matters seem to happen regularly, and they come in many forms.

Sometimes, an employer doesn’t pay their employees on time. This is most common in young, small businesses on financially shaky grounds. Even a little delay on a seemingly tiny sum of money can make an employee feel worried and confused. They wonder if the decision was personal. They suspect others may still be getting paid. They can’t imagine how they’re going to pay their bills. Should they quit or stick it out? Is the company secretly going out of business?

Then, there’s annual performance review time. An employee receives a stellar evaluation, yet the boss can only give them a three percent raise and a pat on the back. The employee knows this amount of money won’t help out at home. It feels like a joke. But there’s an unjustified expectation that the employee should show gratitude for receiving anything at all. The employee begins to wonder if they should look elsewhere. Or they wonder if they should really work so hard each day if this is all they get for their efforts.

Other times, the employer gives the employee a promotion, but doesn’t pay them according to the market rate. The employer often presents this as a “growth opportunity.” It’s a chance for the employee to stretch their skills and learn something new. This can leave the employee reeling. Of all the scenarios presented so far, this particular case can cause an employee to feel the most disrespected. They don’t want to turn down the promotion, but they have to wonder: Does the company really value my work, or are they just trying to get a deal?

CreditThere are many other ways employees can be left feeling financially vulnerable, too. Their employer might not pay their relocation as expected. A promised signing bonus might go unpaid. Their health benefits don’t kick in for 90 days, but nobody told them that during the interview process. A quick conversation at the water cooler reveals they’re making much less than their peers.

The list goes on and on.

Whatever the details, an employee who feels financially taken advantage of will start looking for a new job. Regardless of how impersonal or how much of a mistake the issue was to the company, it’s personal to the employee. It impacts them, their family, and their future.

One of the easiest ways to retain top talent is to pay them. Pay them for their work. Pay them fairly, and pay them on time.

If you don’t, somebody else will.

A version of this article originally appeared on The Memphis Daily News

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