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Gwyneth Peña-Siguenza
Gwyneth Peña-Siguenza

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How much loyalty do you owe your employer?

Discussion (13)

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kspeakman profile image
Kasey Speakman • Edited on

None. I say that as someone who feels connected to the people in my company. And especially to my team.

Loyalty is something that you can have for a person. Extended to a group, loyalty is most closely associated with family. Companies usually aren't families and typically are not created in order to form one. They are machines designed to generate something -- usually profit. For non-profits, perhaps a community benefit.

You can also say that loyalty could be an alignment of principle or philosophy. Companies may have a purpose statement that you agree with, but often I find they are really aspirations, and may not reflect reality. The timbre of companies also change with the leadership. It is actually a very interesting and mostly unaccomplished design challenge: how do you build a company that keeps the same "spirit" even though leadership changes?

You can also examine it as a matter of reciprocity. Does the company have loyalty to you? How does the company handle economic booms and busts? Do they hire people in boom and lay them off in bust? This makes tons of business sense to do. But it also implicitly views people as work units and precludes family-style loyalty. This is not a value judgement of the company -- it is a machine performing its intended purpose.

The sum of it is: companies are looking out for their own best interest, not yours. (And even then, an unscrupulous leader will look out for their personal best interest, not even that of the company.) Don't get fooled by middle managers trying to sell you on the idea of company loyalty. If it comes down to the company losing money or firing you, they will probably fire you.

Your employment is a business transaction -- they pay you and you provide labor. They typically hold most of the influence in setting up the transaction, so it is your responsibility to make sure you are getting what you need from it. Be that pay, working with supportive people, learning or advancement opportunities, etc. And (in my state at least) it is either party's prerogative to terminate the transaction if/when it no longer works for them.

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Mike Bybee • Edited on

Just a few things I'd like to add here:

  • blood !== family. I have many friends I consider closer family than blood relatives, many of whom I've never even met IRL.
  • True boss self-interest need not (and shouldn't) be at odds with company self-interest and employee self-interest.
  • All relationships (love, business, etc.) should be mutually beneficial, with each party free to walk away when they're not, and addressing the iniquity doesn't restore that mutually beneficial state.
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kspeakman profile image
Kasey Speakman

If I could nuance what you are saying, it doesn't quite feel right to paint the employer-employee relationship with the same brush as with my cousin for example. But in general, yes every relationship has its breaking point. Especially when one of the people is taking advantage and not trying.

I feel like many employers default to expecting the employee to do all the trying in the relationship. I have experienced that before anyway. It seems a predisposition because they hold most of the cards. So I guess point being I tend to look with a little more skepticism at the particular business relationship that is employer-to-employee. I'm more optimistic with person-to-person... that there can be a virtuous cycle of kindness begetting kindness as opposed to mutually-beneficial score-keeping.

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Mike Bybee • Edited on

I'm more interested in how things should be (and saying/doing something about it). You're right in that it often is treated as "I hold all the cards" but... Do they?

As for the selfish nature (and I say that without any negative connotation whatsoever) of interpersonal interactions of any sort, it's not about scorekeeping.

That's a terrible approach (and quite frankly the one a lot of - I daresay most - self-proclaimed "selfless" people take), and one in which very little is actually exchanged as people grow wise to its parasitic, duty-bound, guilt-ridden nature.

Done right, it's a recognition that to have your needs and expectations met by others, you have to be willing and able to meet theirs. That whether it's respect, loyalty, performance, love, or anything else worthwhile in life, it has to be earned (and should be expected when you've earned it) and that nobody should feel any obligation to give to another what they're not willing to earn.

The cheating partner has no reason to expect their partner's continued fidelity. The abusive parent has no reason to expect their child's love. The cheapskate boss has no reason to expect an underpaid employee to give them their best work or stick around at all. The lazy employee has no reason to expect continued employment. And so on.

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Mike Bybee • Edited on

And FWIW I've absolutely had bosses I love like family. I still call one of them "Boss" to this day, well over a decade after we worked together, because she always sought to make the working relationship mutually beneficial, and knew that developing the best in me was in her own interest even if I someday became her boss.

As I alluded to above, she earned both my respect and my (non-romantic) love.

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madebygps profile image
Gwyneth Peña-Siguenza Author

Thank you for this detailed reply. I enjoyed your insight and will be using it to think about my own answer.

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dmfay profile image
Dian Fay

Beautifully said!

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ghost profile image
Ghost

In what context?, in general I don't like to think in terms of loyalty, is too blind for me and intentional blindness is never good for me. You would cheat on your partner because you are loyal? no, don't do it because you will hurt her; you will share private info because you are loyal? no, do it because is a shitty thing to do. Loyalty usually leads to selective shittiness, you don't do something right because you are loyal, you do it because it's right, you use loyalty on the other hand to justify something wrong to someone to whom you are not loyal. To me loyalty is often if not always an excuse. We tend to look for rules and simple statements, which is better?, what is good?, etc. That, to avoid having to ponder every case, and that in every field, of course we would like something like "Vue is better than React" or "lettuce is better than celery", that would be so much simple, but reality is that simple, we have to consider every case on its own. How much loyalty do we owe your employer?, how much loyalty do we owe to anyone?, none if you ask me, you should aim to do the right thing because is right and not justify the wrong because of loyalty to someone, some country, some religion, race, group, etc.

Loyalty, in my book, is for "lawful neutral" kinda character, which to me is somewhat morally lazy; I aim to be more of a "neutral good" kinda guy.

Of course that's my opinion at the moment and the terms of it can change if better arguments and or evidence are presented.

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madebygps profile image
Gwyneth Peña-Siguenza Author

Thank you for the reply. I’ll use it as I formulate my own opinion

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huncyrus profile image
huncyrus

My thought in short: none, nothing.

[tl;dr]
During the previous decade and especially the last 5-8 years I would say, an employee may owe loyalty to one or multiple person at a company, but not for a company. Even if the company do very generous things like give you extra helping hand for relocation or give your permission for extra leave because personal but non-professional reasons still the employee should have zero loyalty because for a company all such beneficial things are just simple tools what is available and very rarely costs money - or amount of money what counts/visible.

This is especially true against startups. I was consultant for startups in London, UK and Berlin, DE, and seen they throw thousands if not ten-thousands of euros into one person or one issue. But then in the very first moment they throw away an employee because they are like wrenches or cogs/gears, nothing else. Just tool. Just an object. The person behind it does not count. The skill set and the in-that-seconds-value what counts. At the end of the day any employee will be not much, just some number in a spreadsheet.

So personally believe, loyalty is a feeling and in business better to close off them to avoid any kind of distortion, if possible.

I remember few investors from UK and Germany, who talked about "there is no rule" and "there is no emotion" should be involve into business by any means.
[/tl;dr]

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madebygps profile image
Gwyneth Peña-Siguenza Author

This seems to be a common opinion, thank you for sharing your insight and experience.

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madebygps profile image
Gwyneth Peña-Siguenza Author

I don’t have an answer and I genuinely want to know what other people in the community think about this.

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Mike Bybee

Loyalty is earned, and it works both ways between parties, and there is no loyalty more important than to oneself.