Does anyone really know what the hell it means to be “loyal” as an employee? A lot of executives when asked to describe the perfect employee or hire will constantly use this trait, “loyalty”. “I want a person who is loyal!”
The number two trait is “someone who will actually show up”! So, apparently, the bar has gotten pretty low on what it means to be a great employee! Where did I get this data? I made it up by talking to real executives, instead of making up fake survey data, so bite me.
My question is as an HR or TA pro, does this trait “loyalty” take on a different meaning than just some normal employee who doesn’t get the super-secret password to all the compensation data? Are we, HR and TA pros, held to a different standard of loyalty? As the company is unraveling, because we know where the bodies are buried and harassment investigation notes are stored, do we owe our leaders more loyalty?
A part of me wants to tell you, “No” you don’t. It’s the modern, politically correct thing to say. Of course not! You only owe loyalty to yourself! Well, and to all those employees who can’t defend themselves. And, well, to all the puppies. Also, to anyone who is under-represented, unless they make a lot of money and are on the executive team, then F@ck them!
Here’s the thing, when I talk to the c-suite, it’s the one thing that comes out over and over. Your executives want to surround themselves with a team that is loyal. In the best-case scenario, everyone is high performing and we are all taking this ride on a rocket ship to greatness. Worst case, they want to know they won’t be sold down the river.
If you want to be a CHRO (the Crows!) or a CPO, you’ll need to be a person who has a strong sense of loyalty to the individual, or individuals, who made the decision to bring you into the c-suite. It’s a non-negotiable. Yes, you will have some big moral dilemmas to play out through your career, and the first time you break loyalty, you might as well start looking for your next position, regardless if you’re right or wrong.
Loyalty doesn’t work bi-directionally most of the time.
In a perfect world, you can be loyal to yourself, to your executives, and to your employees. We do not live in a perfect world. I’m not saying you have to be disloyal to anyone, especially to yourself, just know you’ll be asked to at some point. We all have been.
Here’s what I think CEOs are asking for when it comes to “being loyal”:
- When we leave the meeting, you back each other up on the final decision that was made. You never leave and go, “well, that’s not what my vote was, but I was outvoted”. It’s always “we” and never “they”. Once it is, you’re out.
- We help each other rise, we never push each other down. The world will do enough of that to us on our own.
- We can be critical of each other, behind closed doors, real conversation, to each other’s face. We can never be critical of each other to other people. That is how cancer starts.
- If I mess up, or you mess up, we messed up. We’ll own it together, and we’ll solve it together.
- I will not let you get surprised if it is in my power to make it so.
Can you imagine a working relationship like the five points above? Doesn’t it sound magical? It is. I’ve had it, and you’ll never forget it once you have had it and it’s the only thing you’ll want moving forward.
Loyalty isn’t about following someone who’s stupid blindly. Loyalty, in a professional sense, is about supporting each other unconditionally, until morally it is impossible to do so.
When you take a look at the five points of being loyal, ask yourself, “Are you a loyal employee?”