Loyalty is often referred to as faith in service and or faith in love. It is also aligned with the fulfilment of a commitment between individuals, groups and even organisations. This week, the concept of loyalty was at the forefront of my work with emerging, middle, and senior leaders. Whilst everyone agreed on the definition of loyalty, the expectations of loyalty from each of the cohorts with which I worked differed significantly.
For senior leaders, loyalty was all about a one-way street where employees were expected to fulfill their contractual obligations and take on other duties as required. The perspective held was that they were being paid for a service and that there was an expectation that all had to be done without cause for concern. To this end, all decisions were made at the top level and were filtered down to the front line. At all times, the focus for senior leaders was on the bottom line.
For middle leaders, the expectations of loyalty were a little different. They believed their role was to manage up and down, providing loyalty to their direct reports. The workspace was transactional, and whilst they focused on supporting frontline workers, the middle leaders were very aware of the expectations of their line managers and were committed to not disappointing them. For middle leaders, the focus was attempting to juggle as many balls as possible.
Emerging leaders and front-line workers had a very different perspective. They did not expect any loyalty from their senior leaders, nor did they have a great deal of loyalty for them. There were many stories shared that exemplified open wounds and scars. Being made false promises together with, nepotism, cronyism, lack of culture and confidence, these Participants shared their disappointment towards the false promises, nepotism, cronyism, and lack of culture that they had experienced, and the detrimental personal and professional impacts that created. For them, the concept of loyalty was mutually non-existent.
Hearing all of this reminded me that despite the literature available regarding the importance of workplace culture (the space that grows loyalty), the lived working reality is still quite a challenge. So, what can be done to ensure that workplace loyalty is mutually beneficial for all team and organisational stakeholders?
Consider the following:
- Limit standardised control at the executive level.
- Empower confident and competent middle leaders who have a transformational approach to leadership.
- Listen to employees by providing regular culture surveys and toolbox meetings.
- Ensure that appropriate policies, practices and procedures are in place that comply with the relevant legislation, by-laws and the like.
- Provide blended workplace arrangements that may include childcare options, free or discounted parking.
- Establish opportunities for growth and development for all staff.