What ideas spring to mind when you think of the word loyalty? What does it mean to you?
Would you show loyalty to your family and friends? Support them when they need you and be there for them? Have their backs and act in their interests? Would you expect the same level of loyalty back? If we don’t, we can get upset, even hurt, and it can damage the trust we have in that person. Loyalty is an integral part of forming lasting relationships.
We have examples of loyalty everywhere – friends, family, pets. What about employers? I believe it must be a tricky time for employment relationships just now as there’s so much uncertainty and turmoil in the world of work. In my personal blog, I look at an example of exceptional loyalty shown by a pet dog, but here, I want to look at the other end of the scale, and how loyalty or a lack of it, can impact on the employment relationship.
In my personal blog I have talked previously about the psychological contract, and how, for it to be healthy, the expectations of both the employer and employee need to be met. For good employers, they will always try to look for ways to create an environment that engages employees, where those employees are willing to go that extra mile and we have a balanced psychological contract. However, what happens when the skills are tipped in one direction or the other? I believe this can be the case sometimes with loyalty. Employers expect, possibly even demand, absolute loyalty from their workforce and if its felt you’re not a loyal, committed, employee then, depending on circumstances, you could find your performance and behavior challenged, possibly experience some form of performance management processes or even disciplinary action or dismissal. But what happens when they can’t return the favour? With the best will in the world, they may wish to show loyalty to their staff, but ultimately management, our employers, need to make decisions in the interests of the organisation, including survival, including letting some staff go/make redundancies and therefore are unable to give the same loyalty that they seek.
Our employers look to us to be loyal to the organisation, to show commitment and work hard for them but at a time when the psychological contract is under threat, they cannot always guarantee to show loyalty to us. They cannot always afford to pay the salary increases being sought nor, in difficult financial times, can they guarantee job security. I’m sure good employers would prefer not to be dealing with redundancies, to show loyalty to everyone, But by making some painful decisions they can protect the organisation from hopefully needing to make worse decisions further down the line. It could be argued that by letting some staff go, they are safeguarding the employment of those remaining. That being the case, loyalty is important. Employers need to be aware that those surviving redundancy processes will look at how those leaving the organisation were treated – were they treated sensitively, with compassion and understanding, with dignity. If employers want the survivors to be loyal, they need to earn it. The survivors need to trust their employers, that in their turn, they will be treated fairly.
In the early 1990s I worked for a law firm in Glasgow who were, like other organisations, struggling with a recession. However, how they handled it was to make minimum cuts, but the situation developed that at about 4 – 4:30 p.m. on a Friday afternoon, we’d see the office manager wandering around, take someone into his office and make them redundant. This happened for weeks on end. No one fell safe; we were all on edge, could I be next, and seeing the office manager on a Friday became a moment of dread, and then relief if he didn’t talk to you.
That situation has always stuck with me, probably contributing to my interest in HR. Leading me to look for a better way to do things, a better way to treat people and look after the business too. There was a definite lack of loyalty, people were not treated with dignity or any compassion and they got little loyalty from the surviving employees. Ultimately I too, was made redundant by this employer.
I wrote previously on my own blog about quiet quitting. I fear if the psychological contract is damaged because of the lack of loyalty and a breakdown in trust we may see instances of quiet qutting increasing.
I would imagine many people would be able to relate to what I’m focusing on here today. How do you feel about the expectation of employers on us in terms of loyalty and commitment? I look forward to reading your thoughts in the comments section.
Don’t forget to check out my story looking at the other side of loyalty on my personal blog; for a real feel good story.