Is there a place for loyalty in the workforce?

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Posted by Brent Conklin

August 23, 2010

We have all had that job. You know the job (or even the manager or coworker) that encourages you to fantasize about creative and satirical ways to make a grand exit. You'll be a legend. A maverick. A hero among the masses of people who have had enough.

Leadership left behind will notice injustices and work to right the wrongs. Though management will regret the loss of such an exemplary employee (that's you, of course), they will understand that someone of your value can't possibly thrive in such a stifling environment.

Break is over. Back to reality. The reality is that most companies have made it perfectly clear that all employees are expendable. Shortly after your grand exit, you will be replaced. The job will get done.

Perhaps you'll work harder to impact positive changes in your work environment. But if your attempts aren't successful, you will do what the masses do when they've had enough ... find another opportunity.

Steven Slater of JetBlue had enough. He made that grand exit, and is known throughout the workforce as a legend. A maverick. A hero among the masses who have had enough.

He also faces up to seven years in prison.

I will say that in the weeks prior to Steven Slater's spontaneous and creative resignation, there was an increased focus in the media on employee morale and satisfaction. Recent survey results were published in an effort to drive a focus on employee well-being. There are very real concerns that, as the market picks up, our top employees will also pick up and walk out.

Let it be noted that Steven Slater, according to the early information released, was a dedicated employee that served a long tenure with JetBlue. According to some, he was so loyal that people joked he "drank the blue juice."

Loyalty. There is an interesting word. I would say that the dynamic changed long ago. Individuals are most loyal to themselves and their families. Companies are most loyal to survival, growth, and the bottom line. I would also say that with the shifting paradigm in pension and retirement plans, loyalty doesn't run all that deep in the relationships between employers and employees.

I have a few personal characteristics that haven't changed as I've gotten older (and more jaded). I'm loyal. I'm honest. I'm all about mutual respect in any relationship, including that between myself and my employer. I was taught that loyalty and respect are important, and that even when ending a relationship in favor of other opportunities, providing a formal resignation is appropriate.

This brings to light a new reality (one which I hope never makes it on prime time television): employees who feel undervalued and overworked not pulling the emergency slide, but departing without giving you the courtesy of a formal letter detailing their two weeks notice. I'm going to guess, if you keep beer in the office, it isn't a stretch to say that these employees might grab one or two on the way out too.

I choose to believe that throughout the Great Recession, employers did their best to be flexible where budgets have allowed. However, employees have been let go with no notice from employers. There are other residual effects too: a lack of annual salary increases, no bonus payouts, increased costs for benefits packages, an impact on pensions (if there even was a program in existence), reduced retirement funds, less downtime, and more work.

Is it possible that there are more employees teetering on the edge of employment sanity?

Employees might be thinking, "Why give two weeks notice if my employer won't do the same for me? As a matter of fact, I'm in a thankless job. I'm doing more and spending less time with my family. I'm not able to make my paycheck go nearly as far as I could a few years back. Who needs this stress? I'm outta here ..."

MANY people feel as though they have THAT job.

So managers and HR professionals, heed the warning. Unfortunately, while commitment might be an integral part of your core values as an organization, it might be absent from your culture. Loyalty and commitment go hand in hand.

More on loyalty, and Steven Slater, tomorrow.

This post was written by former Seamless Workforce Contributor Tammy Taylor

Topics: Staff Management, HR Strategies

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