Building Loyalty


The erosion of employer-employee loyalty in the workplace has been the subject of much debate and consternation. Economic downturns make employers appear ruthless when they layoff their workers. Employee infidelity seems to be the norm as workers search incessantly for more lucrative or more fulfilling work. Gone are the days of forty year careers followed by hefty pensions. Frequent job transitions are the new reality. In observing this shift, many have referred to the death of workplace loyalty, claiming that workers are all free agents now.

On one hand, the mobile workforce benefits both workers and business owners. American workers have the opportunity to experiment throughout their careers in order to find their niche. For businesses, the ease of downsizing affords the flexibility to restructure payroll in order to stay competitive during lean times.

On the other hand, disloyalty places a wall of suspicion between the employer and the employee. In the absence of job security, workers live with underlying stress. Employers run their businesses uncertain how long their top talent will stay on board.

An organizational culture bereft of loyalty is doomed. With too little loyalty, motivation plummets and cynicism threatens to divide workers from the organizations in which they serve. In a climate of disloyalty, backstabbing, second-guessing, and finger-pointing infect relationships and destroy productivity.

What can a leader do to earn the loyalty or his or her people?

For a moment, let’s examine why we’re loyal in the first place. Generally, we’re loyal to companies for three main reasons, 1) the relationships we have in the organization, 2) the values we share in common with the organization, and 3) the sense of fulfillment we derive from our role within the organization. Each of these reasons provides motivation for us to commit ourselves to a job.


People don’t walk away from a job; they walk away from a manager. The best way to build loyalty is by making an effort to know people at a personal level. Find common interests and build bridges into their world. Understand what makes them tick. Reward their successes. Appreciate each person in a way that recognizes and validates his or her unique personality.

People will be drawn to the values espoused by your organization, and they will stick by your side because they share those values. Be clear about values from the hiring process onward. It’s not enough to profess your values; you must consistently walk in step with them. Allow your values to be scrutinized, and give people permission to hold you accountable to them. Explain any behavior which appears not to align with values, confront behavior that runs contradictory to values, and seek forgiveness when you fail to uphold values.

Like it or not, "What’s in it for me?" is the refrain at the forefront of the minds of those you lead. To win loyalty, cast a vision for the future so that each person sees how they will benefit by being part of the team. Be intentional about uncovering each person’s strengths, and, as much as possible, position them where their job duties match their desires. Train, mentor, and stretch every person under your leadership. People respond with loyalty to those who invest in them.

Leave Problem Employees Behind

The United State Army Rangers have a policy of "no man left behind." The U.S. Department of Education’s latest initiative is entitled No Child Left Behind. The state of Michigan has begun No Worker Left Behind, a program to train the unemployed.

When it comes to the workplace, shouldn’t the slogan be "No Employee Left Behind?" Shouldn’t leaders look out for the welfare of all so that everyone benefits when the team wins?

Not at all! That’s the resounding answer from Mark Goulston in his article recently featured on Goulston warns that leaders not only risk losing their top performers, but also imperil their own health when they devote too much time attempting to motivate low-performance, low-potential employees.

Leaders squander effort when they over-invest in the weakest link. In the words of leadership author Warren Bennis, "There are none so blind as those who will not see, none so deaf as those who will not hear, none so ignorant as those who will not listen… and none so foolish as those who think they can change those who will not see, hear or listen."

Leaders free themselves from the "no employee left behind" philosophy by ordering underperformers to shape up or ship out. Those leaders who aren’t willing to cut loose underperformers, place themselves in danger of the following fates (as described by Warren Bennis):

  • Allowing frustrations with mediocre workers to spill over into negative treatment of top performers
  • Losing self-respect or the esteem of colleagues
  • Burning out after failing to motivate inept workers
  • With so much at stake personally, leaders cannot afford to tolerate employees who refuse to change and fail to contribute.

In addition to the personal toll, leaders jeopardize their relationships with all-star performers by avoiding the removal of unproductive employees. Having to rely on an undependable colleague drains a high-performance individual. Likewise, a person who pours passion and energy into their job is tremendously de-motivated when a lazy worker receives promotion or recognition. Ultimately, top talent will take flight if it perceives a leader is unwilling to eliminate mediocrity from the midst of a company.

Leaders can actively address performance issues by looking out for telltale signs of mediocre employees:

  • They stubbornly resist change
  • They are reactive rather than proactive
  • They are habitually lazy and unprepared
  • They make promises, but they don’t deliver results.
  • They shirk responsibility and pass on blame.
  • They identify problems without finding solutions.

In business, sometimes a leader is forced to drop the axe. It seems harsh, but in reality, tolerating mediocrity poses greater danger to an organization than the unpleasantness of having to fire an employee.

Visit Fast Company’s Website to access Mark Goulston’s full article: "Separating the Cream from the Crap"



"The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another." ~ William James

"Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are." ~ Chinese Proverb

"The happiest people I know are the ones who have learned how to hold everything loosely and have given the worrisome, stress-filled, fearful details of their lives into God’s keeping." ~ Charles R. Swindoll

"Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin." ~ Mother Teresa

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