Company, manager and team loyalty are misunderstood

By Scot Herrick | Cube Rules Commentary

Aug 13

I am pretty blunt when it comes to loyalty to companies. I don’t think anyone should have any loyalty to a company because companies don’t run companies, people run companies. So the loyalty shouldn’t be to Enron, or Washington Mutual, or any other company; we need to decide our loyalties to the people there.

Has workplace loyalty gone to the dogs?

Anita Bruzzese is one of my favorite writers because she reports well and asks great questions. When she writes, I read; simple as that. In one of her latest Gannet columns and web site entries, she asks “Has Workplace Loyalty Gone to The Dogs?” The answer, of course, is yes, it has. The article has resulted in this great conversation in the comments. My contention, of course, is that no one should have loyalty to a company, only to the people in the company.

The article’s point is that we need to have company loyalty because it hurts us as well as the company:

If you’re miserable at work these days, don’t blame your employer. Blame your lack of loyalty.

“After all these layoffs, people like to say that they’re loyal to themselves, not an employer,” says Timothy Keiningham. “But the problem with that is that it’s not a virtue to be loyal to yourself.”

Keiningham, a loyalty guru, says that unless you have a sense of loyalty to the people you work with and what you’re doing then you are likely to be unhappy, no matter how much you’re getting paid.

I noted in the comments that what is described here is a contradiction. We’re supposed to have loyalty to the company, but Keiningham describes, instead, needing loyalty to the people you work with.

And here the great questions start

Anita asked if I could be loyal to a manager who laid me off. My answer: yes, it has happened to me. Could I be loyal to teammates left behind at a company that laid me off? My answer: yes, I’ve done it.

But, I can’t be loyal to a company or a management team that drives a company into the ground, especially when taking millions of dollars of compensation while they are doing it. I’m going to evaluate each person I work with and, as in any social situation, determine my loyalty to that person.

Here’s the final question

Between pundits, I think, it’s relatively easy to understand that there are different types of loyalties out there. There is loyalty to the company, a management team, a manager, your team and to the specific people you work with.

But given all the talk about lost loyalty, Anita asks me, “I know that a company/manager/people are different beasts, but I’m not sure a lot of people see that difference, do you?”

And I don’t know the answer to that one. I need some help from you:

I know that loyalty to a company/manager/people are different beasts, but I’m not sure a lot of people see that difference, do you?

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  • Scot says:

    Good notes here. Interestingly, I don’t mind managers making hard decisions based on good reasoning, including layoffs. But the method they go about making those decisions and how they execute them is what builds the loyalty and the trust.

    That’s why I’d work for a manager that laid me off since I get how they are making the decisions.

    Thanks for the comment.

  • tlcolson says:

    Yes, loyalty to those things is different. I have to “Sell” my company each time I am recruiting for an open position. I have to believe that this is a great place to work. When I can no longer do that, its time for me to move on.

    Sometimes its the “company” – ie. corporate decisions that cause me to not be able to “recommend” my company as a great place to work. Sometimes its my boss, sometimes its the peer team I work with. Each is different, and there are different solutions to each challenge.

    I have found that when the “company” causes the lack of loyalty, there’s nothing to do but move on. When its a boss or peers, sometimes the damage can be repaired.

    And in a layoff situation, I’d never put that onus on anyone except the top decision makers.


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