When Loyalty Walks the Plank

Recently, one of my buddies uttered the following statement: “Never push a loyal person to the point where they don’t give a darn.” Hmmm. He had my attention which was now hooked like an eagle’s beak. My initial reaction was to try and decipher why he said that. He’s in a decent job making decent money and he’s looking at retiring soon. I knew however, there was a crack in the crust.

For the last 18 years he’s been a dormant volcano but circumstances, and people, within the company were eroding his loyalty. His fabric of devotion was being torn thread by thread. Why? How?

What could cause this person, who, at one time, possessed the loyalty of a Golden Retriever, to now have the loyalty of a phone book. The longer our conversation progressed, the more he had my attention as my cavern spelunking instincts kicked in. That’s right, there are no exploratory limitations within the caves of leadership. The leadership caves remain open despite periods of government shutdown.

Loyalty: To keep or not to keep, that is the question? Lets get to the meat of the discussion shall we?

As leaders we must continually seek out the loyal employees and do everything within our humanly powers to keep them around but first, we need to recognize who they are. Sounds simple enough but you’d be surprised. Maybe you are not. It should be simple but too often the loyal employees are glossed over, disregarded, or stomped out like a campfire. As leaders we must take time to pause and reflect upon those within our organization that routinely go above and beyond the call of duty. Who are the ones that bleed company colors when cut? Who always volunteers to take on responsibility and always come through? Mr. and Mrs. Reliability I call them. You MUST know your players before you implement a game plan.

I’ve seen more than my share of loyal employees, in various businesses and organizations, ground into powder. This usually occurs through various conscience and unconscious managerial behaviors. Lets try the 10% analogy for starters. You know, 10% of your workforce does 90% of the work? Heard that one? As leaders, avoid fostering an environment where the go-getters get all the work piled on top of them. This leads to burnout and it happens quickly if you are not careful, not paying attention, or not there to stop it. Challenge everyone in your organization and challenge them often. Nearly everyone is capable if provided an opportunity.

There are other managerial tactics that suck the lifeblood from loyal employees. Any combination of avoiding their ideas, claiming their ideas as your own, or fostering an environment where they’re afraid to share their ideas, will zombify any loyal employee. Their creative juices will turn to sand and all you’ll be left with is a workplace resembling the Salt Flats of Utah. Did you know the World’s First KFC was in Salt Lake City? Neither did I. Moving on.Bottom line: Leadership is hard work. An organization’s success pivots around those that make things happen. The loyal movers and shakers are the Beez Neez of the workforce. Go seek these people out. Tell them you appreciate their efforts and move mountains to keep them happy. Hopefully your efforts will keep them from abandoning ship.

As for my buddy, well, he’s now the empty crab shell you find on the beach. Physically visible at work but there’s nothing inside. Another casualty of managerial dysfunction.