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Loyalty

Watching The Apprentice last night reminded me of one of my pet peeves... What do people think about the value of loyalty in workplace? What exactly is loyalty?

I had a boss who flipped out when a guy left our startup and joined a competitor. He kept going off about "where's the loyalty?" I kept thinking, if the guy worked for me, I why would I want him to stay if he thought he'd be better off elsewhere?

I've always thought that loyalty is evil and causes companies to collapse. It's one thing to stick with the company that's going through hard times because you believe in the products and vision, and therefore think it's in your benefit to tough it out. But it seems to me, the company would not only be wrong, but foolish to expect the employees to be loyal. Respect must be earned, and continued respect should be earned continuously.

And yet, it keeps coming up, most recently when The Donald said that he was looking for loyal people. Why would someone strive to fill the organization with ass-kissers incapable of analyzing and adequatly reacting to the internal problems? Wouldn't that render the company incapable of resolving those problems?

genius
Friday, April 09, 2004

Employment is a business transaction.

- I work, you pay.
- no work, no pay.
- no pay, no work.

Loyalty is nice, but you can't buy it.

Sassy
Friday, April 09, 2004

I don't even think it's nice. I think it does more harm than good.

genius
Friday, April 09, 2004

This usage of the concept of "loyalty" from that business manager is weak and decidedly twisted.

If he wanted loyalty maybe he should have offered better conditions in the first place (better workplace, better payment, etc) instead of waiting the apparently-not-enslaved-enough to blindly bear with him through his bad business decisions(?)

Cristian Cheran
Friday, April 09, 2004

Loyalty to one's employer went out with the 80's.

You're fired!
Friday, April 09, 2004

Loyalty, as something that companies are *owed*, is a joke concept used to guilt employees into working unpaid overtime.

Loyalty, as something earned by good employees and good managers through respect, hard work, and fair reward, still exists, but rarely.

Justin Johnson
Friday, April 09, 2004

I disagree with one point you make, Genius.  I see where you're going with this and I mostly agree, but I don't see culture of loyalty itself as the problem. The problem, as always, is how the imperative to loyalty is used or misused. Just as some love is "wrong" - sick, jealous, twisted or manipulative.

The most common behavior that I've seen, especially in technology with its huge training and learning curve burdens, is the following. A company will constantly preach loyalty as a virtue among its employees without providing rewards proportionate to the loyalty expected. It happens in many different contexts.

A concrete example (used to happen pretty often years ago, I don't know if it still does) is the company that "scrapes" someone off the street with minimal professional technology background, and allows them to come up to speed on the job. Generally, it's really small, underfunded tech companies doing the scraping who bet that they can acquire really cheap programmers (for instance) by simply underwriting a greenhorns' mistakes for awhile.

The problem with this practice is that such companies will sometimes find a latent prodigy who takes off, but they will not advance the employee's pay in accordance with his skill and expertise. IE, the person comes in at tech support wages, and they are expected to stay at a COLA wage progress despite the fact that their value has exploded. Right or wrong, such a person will generally find a better situation. Then, the next person who interviews for a development position with such a company will have to suffer through the bag of wind owner bitching about "backstabbing disloyal programmers" who bolt once they learn something on company time.

Programmers are generally really "smart" people and as such, are persecuted in the business world just like the smartest kid in the class. Being very talented (and earning the big bucks once in a while) is often regarded by the often stupid drudges in non technical career tracks as "unseemly" and deserving punishment. All the while business usually has very, very little loyalty toward technology workers.

When I hear a lot of "loyalty" talk, I mentally translate: the business using the term is probably a shithole and doesn't pay very well (except for the owners.) So persuasion and guilt are used instead of market pay.

Bored Bystander
Friday, April 09, 2004

Loyalty == serfdom

son of parnas
Friday, April 09, 2004

>> the business using the term is probably a shithole

Bored, you are very right.

I used to work for a place that, as Peopleware puts it, you'd have to be 'sick' to work for.

Basically, every day at the office was a realization: "yep, I need to leave this place, fast."

Genius -- don't know what you startup is like, but a lot of places are dumps and people are *aching* to stick it to the boss by leaving.

Better pay wouldn't help really (or it would have to be hugely better). Just make it a place you'd be "out of your mind to leave."

Alex.ro
Friday, April 09, 2004

I would never hire someone who would say that loyalty is a bygone concept.  I do agree that to use the word "loyalty" when it is completed unmerited is ridiculous.  Of course, in the case explained by Genius, if the bossman could understand why it was unmerited, the guy may not have wanted to leave in the first place.

In my startup, we recognize that this is a golden opportunity to create the near perfect environment.  Everything we wish our current jobs were.  We will treat each other with respect, and in turn we will expect loyalty.  If one of us decides to leave because it is obviously *right* for their family, that would not be disloyalty.  If one of us decided to leave, joining a direct competitor, and did so only for a bigger paycheck (we are all splitting revenues equally here), that would certainly be disloyal.  If I were looking to hire someone and they disagreed with that definition, I wouldn't hire them.  Period.

So maybe the cynicism towards loyalty applies to the evil corporate bosses, but don't go making that your creed, because you may alienate the best opportunities.

Clay Whipkey
Friday, April 09, 2004


Don't confuse loyalty with ethics.

An employer doesn't owe an employee anything beyond a paycheck. (Spare me all the OSHA crap for now)

An employee doesn't owe an employer anything beyond the work for the paycheck.

It works better this way. If a company needs to shed a factory because it's unprofitable, then it should do so and release those workers to be better used in the marketplace.

Likewise, if an employee finds a better job then they should leave. This doesn't mean that they screw their employer on the way out.

Your're free to leave at a moment's notice and they are free to fire you on a moment's notice. I prefer it that way.

The Capitalist
Friday, April 09, 2004

I'm a bit jaded on this subject. I have heard the loudest cries of "foul" on employee loyalty from companies that created work environments that had some horribly distorted notion of "good place to work". Also, the companies that preach loyalty the most fervently tend to be the places that deserve it least. It's kind of a law of physics. The companies that deserve loyalty never seem to have to make a point of it.

I've seen someone bolt from a position at a small SW vendor (not a programmer, BTW) who was on the edge of a nervous breakdown from the job's duties. The owners piously acted like the person stabbed them in the back. And have seen the equivalent at a few other places, too.

Anymore, I am like a cop: I just don't believe only one party's account of a situation. And I own an s-corp and could be in the position of a boss someday, so I do tend to see the owner and the employee's sides at the same time...

Bored Bystander
Friday, April 09, 2004

Since I just got laid off (from a university, no less) I'm probably not the guy to ask about loyalty right now.

But since you ask, I'd say the boss is asking the right question, but he's asking the wrong person.  Instead of asking others why they're not loyal, he should be asking himself why his leadership doesn't inspire loyalty.  As others have pointed out, loyalty doesn't come automatically in _any_ setting, let alone in a business setting.

Kyralessa
Friday, April 09, 2004

I've done the loyalty thing twice, going beyond the call, and then declining a better offer to avoid leaving the company in the lurch.

Both cases I got shafted shortly after, more or less due to management changes.

For me now, loyalty is cheap. I look for signatures on documents, up-front payments and ownership of my work.

a
Saturday, April 10, 2004

First, I want to clear up some interesting misconceptions (existence of which I found quite interesting in itself). I don't work for the company anymore, but when I was there, it was a very good experience for me, and I did like my boss (who was the CEO of the startup). The other guy, the one who left, became more and more disgruntled with the company; I'm not in a position to say how much of it was because of the company, and how much was personal. So, I don't really have a problem with other things there, I just found it curious that the CEO took the guy's leaving so personally.

The people's responses so far have been in line with what I was thinking. I can somehow see some logic where a company might object to a person going to work for a competitor, but I think it's a matter of contractual obligations rather than morals: if there's a noncompete clause, obviously something like that is unacceptable, and there are ways to legally preclude it; otherwise, it's implicitly ok...

I guess what I'm mostly wondering is, is there a better definition of "loyalty" other than "expecting less than reasonable under market conditions?"

genius
Saturday, April 10, 2004

<quote>
I guess what I'm mostly wondering is, is there a better definition of "loyalty" other than "expecting less than reasonable under market conditions?"
<quote>
"Holding a non-trivial value for another's support to you". Loyalty and Gratitude are mutually inclusive.

kayjay
Saturday, April 10, 2004

I think the loyalty Trump was referring to was more of a "professional loyalty" than personal loyalty.

It's not about staying with the company for better or worse.  After all, Trump himself fires lots of people -- where's the loyalty there, right?

I think it's more about being able to trust someone to do their job while they're employed by you, and trust them to keep their word.  Like the opposite of Omarosa.  They also won't do or say things to make you look bad, or undermine the company's interests for their attempt at personal gain.  They may leave to join the competition, but they won't divulge secrets to the competition.

Still, it does seem like many of Trump's execs have worked for him for a very long time.  Even Carolyn at 35 years old has been with him for 10 years.  So maybe he does do things to foster a personal loyalty with them, since once he has their personal loyalty the professional loyalty will follow naturally.

T. Norman
Saturday, April 10, 2004

Definition of Loyalty:  Something a company expects from you but doesn't offer in return.

I am loyal to myself and my spouse. I would have no qualms about going to work for my company's competitor because I know they would have no qualms about firing me if it suited their interests. In fact, I've seen companies merge with their competitors and fire 1/2 of each staff. Happens all the time, just read the business section.

I've heard about companies that were loyal to their employees, but I've never actual worked in one. Or been around one.

If a company offered me loyalty I would probably reciprocate, but I ain't holding my breath.

"""
Saturday, April 10, 2004

If I were an employer and hiring, in addition to "smart and get things done" I would want someone who genuinely seemed enthusiastic (implies he gets things done) and seemed loyal. Why? Because I could squeeze more work out of them. Being an employer is all about getting your employees to do more for less, and if playing on their emotions is what it takes, then so be it.

Or maybe I'm cynical.

www.MarkTAW.com
Saturday, April 10, 2004

Mark, I think that's really how it works in the business world. Or at least in the SW development world.

I don't think you're being unduly cynical, that's just keeping it real...

I think in general terms of "marketing", making the sale in any context is all about dispelling fears and making things seem "better" than they really are. IE: as a one person S corporation, I find it useful to use the editorial "we" in my marketing materials. It's the truth in the sense that I can find and pull in subcontractors on demand. And in the future it MAY be the literal truth.

So in marketing-speak, a company that is hiring candidates will present jobs as "career positions" and will speak glibly of loyalty, while the actual result (in the best case) is going to depend upon whether the company can make its numbers as it expects to. And the company will find it most useful to select candidates that embrace that flavor of forward looking vision.

This is basically also saying that if you've seen many gross exceptions to this rule such that you aren't "buying it" anymore, companies will pick up on it and so you will not be a desirable candidate even if you have the skills and track record. That has happened to me over the years.

Bored Bystander
Saturday, April 10, 2004

>> Or maybe I'm cynical.

You'd be disrupting the kwan.

Alex.ro
Saturday, April 10, 2004

By that I mean, you'll be building up negative energy that will eventually crumble the company.

Gee, that actually happens everywhere.

Alex.ro
Saturday, April 10, 2004

> If one of us decided to leave, joining a direct competitor, and did so only for a bigger paycheck (we are all splitting revenues equally here), that would certainly be disloyal.

Clay you are such a freaking hypocrite. You know that you would sell out any of your employees for five dollars. If it were any other way, you would give them all substantial equity in the company instead of talking BS about loyalty in an attempt to manipulate the poor saps befyore you screw them over.

Tony Chang
Saturday, April 10, 2004

"""You know that you would sell out any of your employees for five dollars"""

Nonsense. Clay would only do that for 5 dollars per share, not per employee.


Saturday, April 10, 2004

Both loyalty and respect are things that are EARNED, not given freely.

A tip: Beware greatly at anyone who demands loyalty or respect without having earned it. 100% of the time, these are con artists who will shaft you the first chance they get.

Tony Chang
Saturday, April 10, 2004

" 100% of the time, these are con artists who will shaft you the first chance they get. "

Beware of people who quote statistics. 98% of the time, they are just making it up.

Not Me
Sunday, April 11, 2004

Different perspective on loyalty :

http://discuss.fogcreek.com/joelonsoftware/default.asp?cmd=show&ixPost=131678

Mr Curiousity
Sunday, April 11, 2004

"I think the loyalty Trump was referring to was more of a 'professional loyalty' than personal loyalty.  It's not about staying with the company for better or worse...I think it's more about being able to trust someone to do their job while they're employed by you, and trust them to keep their word."

Trusting someone to do their job and keep their word might involve words like "trustworthiness", "integrity", and "dependability", but not "loyalty"; loyalty means something different.

Kyralessa
Monday, April 12, 2004

Kyralessa,

That's exactly what I was thinking.

genius
Monday, April 12, 2004

"Clay, you are such a freaking hypocrite"

Ouch.  That might hurt if you actually knew the first thing about me.  Honestly though, I totally understand where the cynicism comes from, but it is still sad.  I'm sure it seems shocking to imagine that someone could be a *manager* and be honestly fair and thoughtful of their employees, and I wonder how many of you have the same cynicism towards Joel.  Certainly most have the hope that it could be true, hence the doting over Joel and FC.

I will say this, though: in our group I look at it more like a hockey team.  I am not a manager who hires and fires and gives raises and promotions.  Like I said before, we are all splitting profits EQUALLY amongst our group.  (It will get more complicated in the future when we need to hire more people).  In this group, I see myself as the team captain, not the boss.  On most hockey teams, the captain leads by example.  The leadership role I have is not very traditional.  Its mostly that I would be the one who is responsible for the actions of the group, for delivering the work, and when the time comes to make a hard decision when the choice is not so obvious.  These are things that MUST BE DONE BY SOMEONE. I believe that in order to keep that *C on my jersey*, I also should work at least as hard as everyone else on the team, which I do.

On the subject of loyalty: I totally agree that it is earned not obligatory.  I also believe in operating our business in a way that earns that loyalty undisputedly.

Clay Whipkey
Monday, April 12, 2004

Clay, you compare your personal , wholly unique situation to that of everyone else  - a flawed comparison.

Where I work, management expects to spend as little as possible and get back as much as possible.  It's that simple.

Sassy
Monday, April 12, 2004

Sassy,
Point well taken and I understand that.  That's why I said in my first post, that the feelings may be legitimate and warranted in the typical corporate world, but its not healthy to take upon yourself the "trust no one" mantra.  Yeah, it might protect you from the corporate monsters, but it may also scare away some very golden opportunities.

Clay Whipkey
Monday, April 12, 2004

I look at ‘loyalty’ as a term for a team player.  You’d expect sports figures to be completely loyal to their team, until they are traded.  Then they become loyal to the next team.  A team player in business is one who is committed to the work to see that it’s as good as it can be.  The employee works with others in the team in a mutual symbiotic relationship.  If the team wins, the company does too and so do the individuals.  Omerosa is the penultimate non-team player.  She would sink any project that doesn’t go her way.  I wouldn’t trust her loyalty. 

Lastly, you don’t become disloyal because you want to make a better career move.  That’s just silly. 

bizguy
Monday, April 12, 2004

Loyalty is a two way street.  Companies that are loyal to their employees by training them, trusting them, giving them the tools to do their job and treating them like unique individuals are likely to have loyal employees.

Loyal employees are a valuable resource to companies because, if the company has done what I stated above, they are more likely to have well-trained individuals that can do their job more effectively and efficiently than a newbie.

Trust takes time to earn and you need loyalty to give you the time to really build it.

Reid
Monday, April 12, 2004

Loyalty and ethics are linked, perhaps weakly, but they are linked.

If a company advertises a 'cradle to grave' policy - as many did in the 70's and 80's, they make a promise to support their employees and expect loyalty in return. A deal based on mutual loyalty. There is an understanding that the employee will be supported during low times and as they become less efficient. That may mean re-skilling over years. This is a view of the cost-benefit of employing someone taken as a long term, lifetime cost. When that benefit is achieved, the person can be retired not fired. In return the employee will stretch for that company and resist temptations elsewhere.  If the company (or employee) breaks that deal, that is unethical because you extract 25-30 years work from someone and then stiff them for their pension. That is disloyal and unethical.

Companies now make no such promise. You can still be disloyal by leaving the company or firing employees, but it is no longer unethical because there is no deal/promise there to be broken. Re-skilling becomes the employees problem and the employee needs to plan for an irregular income.  The company has lower training costs and higher recruitment costs. Salaries may be higher too. That is all fine if you know that's the deal when you start out.

WoodenTongue
Tuesday, April 13, 2004

"I look at ‘loyalty’ as a term for a team player.  You’d expect sports figures to be completely loyal to their team, until they are traded."

And is your team loyal to you when they trade you? Is it disloyal for your manager to actively court other teams? What you're describing isn't loyalty, it's hard work & dedication.

Even look at the language you use. "Traded" like "traitor." If I "traded" from the American cause to the British cause during The Revolutionary War, or if my country gave up on me if I was a POW, I'd consider it a serious act of disloyalty, but apparently to you as long as I act faithfully in your service until such time as I see fit to leave, you're ok with that.

====
Loyalty

the act of binding yourself (intellectually or emotionally) to a course of action; "his long commitment to public service"; "they felt no loyalty to a losing team"

The state or quality of being loyal; fidelity to a superior,
or to duty, love, etc.

http://www.hyperdictionary.com/search.aspx?define=Loyalty
====

====
Loyal

  1. [adj]  unwavering in devotion to friend or vow or cause; "a firm ally"; "loyal supporters"; "the true-hearted soldier...of Tippecanoe"- Campaign song for William Henry Harrison; "fast friends"
  2. [adj]  steadfast in allegiance or duty; "loyal subjects"; "loyal friends stood by him"
  3. [adj]  inspired by love for your country

http://www.hyperdictionary.com/dictionary/loyal
====

www.MarkTAW.com
Tuesday, April 13, 2004

In "The Old Days" (tm) Loyalty was very much expected. If a company took you on they expected you to remain loyal to that company. Period. You still see this mindset at play in Japan though it seems to be eroding there now as well. For a very real perspective on where it's seen today, check the military.

IMO, there has been a huge change in the "employment contract" over the past few decades. Gone are the days when a company would select, nurture and grow. It probably was no longer cost efficient to do this. So, employees responded the only way they knew how. When they want to improve, they moved.

How many of us took a new job because it meant promotion and/or better pay?  In days of yore - you might have expected to do this at the same company but not so now, it would appear.

So as another poster said earlier - you can't buy loyalty - you earn it. If a company expects loyalty from their employees, they have to look after their end of the deal FIRST and nurture and grow their employees.

--
Derek Davidson
http://www.enterpriseblue.co.uk
Got ED?

Fred Dibnah
Wednesday, April 14, 2004

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