Have a general question about employment law? Want to share a story? I welcome all comments and questions. I can't give legal advice here about specific situations but will be glad to discuss general issues and try to point you in the right direction. If you need legal advice, contact an employment lawyer in your state. Remember, anything you post here will be seen publicly, and I will comment publicly on it. It will not be confidential. Govern yourself accordingly. If you want to communicate with me confidentially as Donna Ballman, Florida lawyer rather than as Donna Ballman, blogger, my firm's website is here.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Avoid Employers With White House Level Turnover

As much as potential employers might try to lure you in with big promises, one major red flag that indicates an employer to avoid is high turnover. Bad employers will give all kinds of excuses for why so many have left or been fired, and none of it was their fault, of course. It's all bad luck, bad employees, bad fit, but never, ever, that they're a bad employer.

I mention this, of course, in light of the White House's mind-blowing record-setting turnover rate that is rising as fast as I can type (two more today and counting). An employer with a 40+% turnover rate in a year is a bad employer. I guarantee that.

At some point, any reasonable employer has to take responsibility for the fact that they can't keep employees. Once the turnover rate is over 20% for an employer with at least 20 employees, that employer should start looking inward and addressing the problems causing people to leave.

Here are just some reasons employers have a mass exodus:

  • Bullying: Allowing bullies to run rampant a la the White House leads to brain drain.
  • Sexual harassment: Sexual harassment goes hand in hand with bullying, because sexual harassment is about power, not sex. Harassers are bullies with a specific agenda. Allowing harassers to run amok causes low morale and a frat house atmosphere, such as the Fox debacle. The harassers accelerate their behavior like Weinstein. Good people leave.
  • Poor training: If an employer is claiming lots of employees are poor employees, just not getting it, don't have the requisite skills, the training may well be the problem. Throwing folks in without training and then complaining about it is the employer's fault, not the employees'.
  • Financial trouble: Employers that don't pay people, pay late, cut benefits, have lots of layoffs, are in trouble. You don't want to give up a job to go to a place that will be out of business or doing another round of layoffs as soon as you start.
  • Indentured servitude: Some companies have little or no work-life balance. They think salaried employees=indentured servants, and should be working 24/7. This is a great way to burn people out quickly.
  • Poor hiring: If many people are let go because they "aren't a good fit," then poor interviewing, poor background checks, poor job descriptions, or other poor hiring processes might be the cause.
  • Poor management: Ignoring staff, providing no growth opportunities, giving little feedback, messing with or freezing pay and benefits, credit hogging, general chaos, all can lead to people leaving in droves.

These are just a few reasons why an employer might have high turnover. Avoid employers with high turnover like the plague. Do your due diligence. Ask about your predecessors. How many people have held the position in the past 10 years? The past 5? What happened to them and why? Ask similar questions about the staff in your department and upper management. Check Glassdoor. Ask around in the industry.

No matter how much an employer tries to sweet talk, explain away, or convince you things will be different, don't fall for it. You won't be any different from the ones before you. I run into people who think they're superstars and it won't happen to them, or who fall for b.s. lines from bad employers. Or they think the job is too good or too prestigious to pass up (think White House or Cabinet).

So if the White House calls, don't be a sucker. Keep on looking.


  1. Hi, Donna! I found your blog while looking up stuff to help me negotiate with my former employer. In a stellar show of ignorance, they violated the ADA and title VII in a single conversation and then fired me when I told them it was a violation for "talking back." I live in a Right-To-Work state. The NLRB has been helpful, but I have no idea what I'm doing and I don't want to get screwed.

    This post stood out to me because the employer does have white-house level turnover. I was only there for about half a year and saw three people come and go (And, of course, I was the one that had to pick up their shifts when they quit). This was very insightful, thank you for sharing this and your experience.

    I have little/no money in the bank right now, and have called 8 different lawyers that won't help me, saying it's either an ADA case, or a Title VII case, and then bounce me back and forth. The EEOC did not answer their phones. It was stuck at 67 min hold time, and the one time I did get through, the employee quite obviously faked "not hearing me."

    Do you have any resources for employees in my situation? I don't know what to do about the negotiation, and the NLRB agent that's been doing the investigation is, well, like you said in an earlier post, super overwhelmed.

    1. To Nathan, I was wrongfully terminated due to a disability. Working for this particular company 11 years. Filed with the EEOC they took my claim immediately. That was in the month of June. They did not serve my employer until October that same year. It is supposed to be done within 30 days. They finally served, my employer did not respond the first time. They had to send a second notice to my employer they finally sent their rebuttal which was lies. The manager that fired me had quit 2 months after he fired me our general manager was fired for stealing. Here I sit today telling me to have all my notes and rebuttal in by May 7th. Now I'm told it takes another 90 days to evaluate the claim. I'm lost for words. Over a year of stress has basically consume me.

  2. Great article. I would just add that at some companies high turnover is not a consequence of workplace issues gone awry but actually a labor model. You see, on-the-job training (especially for many office/sales/corporate roles) isn't what it used to be. Nowadays less is being invested in the workforce and more in marketing and c-level relationship building. Companies are willing to invest thousands a day in marketing while throwing pennies to prep someone for their role. Also the longer a person is with a company their seniority justifies higher expectations ergo costs on the employer - pay raise, promotion, better incentives, higher commission rates, longer paid vacations, profit sharing, the list goes on - all this costs money and employers are becoming ultra-sensitive to the "liability" of long term workers. Furthermore, the longer a person works at a company the greater the sense of malicious intent and betrayal if something goes wrong aka lawsuits. Lastly, the longer someone is in a position, the more comfortable and entitled they become and sometimes less productive as the need to prove themselves isn't high on the list. This is also where favoritism comes into play and yet I've seen many people who were "favorites" fall victim to the great Turnover. So, while common wisdom out there suggests companies are still looking to tame high turnover and grow a workforce with longevity, I think in reality employment has undergone a paradigm shift toward desensitization and rationalization of turnover as a cost-benefit win win. Sometimes, labor costs aren't justified so the compensation structure suddenly "changes" or benefits are downgraded. Those spiffs and monthly sales bonuses are conveniently put on hold, until the new round of newbies come begging for a chance to prove themselves!


I appreciate your comments and general questions but this isn't the place to ask confidential legal questions. If you need an employee-side employment lawyer, try http://exchange.nela.org/findalawyer to locate one in your state.