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How Leaders Earn Loyalty in the Workplace


How Leaders Earn Loyalty in the Workplace

Marja Fox shares a valuable article for leaders on how to cultivate loyalty in the workplace.

I previously wrote about being accused of lacking loyalty for leaving an organization of which I was a part for two years. Though my departure was prior to the Great Resignation, that ongoing event makes it clear that I’m not alone in feeling that today’s corporations aren’t always worth sticking around. In the prior blog, I make the case that employers have only themselves to blame – many simply no longer fit the criteria by which humans select and prioritize loyal relationships. A true fix will require wholesale cultural shifts that enlightened leaders will need to spearhead over time. Let’s look at what you can do now to get your organization and team on the right track.

Think of loyalty as a characteristic in you, not your employees.

Leaders should ask themselves whether they are worthy of loyalty and strive to become so. At McKinsey, we evaluated our Engagement Managers and up on a concept we called Followership – a track record of inspiring junior colleagues to follow them into new opportunities. This shift in terminology puts the emphasis where it belongs – with the leader whose actions, behaviors, mindset and values motivate others to follow them. Or not.

Loyalty is earned, not found.

If we reject the idea that loyalty is inherent to a person as argued in the prior post, it obviously follows that we shouldn’t be evaluating candidates for hiring, promotion or transfer based on whether they have it or not. If you’re not persuaded, consider how illogical it is to try to recruit for the trait of loyalty: to bring someone to your team, they have to be leaving somewhere (or someone) else – a disloyal act! (Or so that CEO would say.)

Loyalty only matters coming from those with options.

Reviewing the results of the biannual employee engagement survey, my peers on a business unit leadership team fretted over the results of a particular question – “Over the last two years, I have considered employment options outside of my organization” – showing a significant increase in respondents agreeing with the statement since the prior survey cycle. My peers were universally alarmed that more people were entertaining outside opportunities. I was alarmed by the large percentage that weren’t.

Key points include:

  • Employee engagement survey
  • Critical loyalty

  • Evaluating candidates

Read the full article, Loyalty in the Workplace: Lessons for Leaders, on