As we once again enter a time when companies are laying off people, the old question of employee loyalty arises. People who want to be loyal to corporations find themselves disillusioned and even cynical when they realize that companies are not loyal to them. They struggle to determine how loyal and how independent they should be. The problem with this thought process, as I see it, is that it asks the wrong question--or put another way, we are trying to plot our position on the wrong axis.
Imagine a graph where the horizontal axis is the loyalty--independence axis. Add to that, however, the vertical axis on which the highest point is integrity and the lowest is manipulation. This, I argue, would give us a more realistic (and satisfying) way of thinking about our relationship to a corporation. It's not just about loyalty that is either reciprocated or not. It is about integrity, i.e. how open am I about the basic reality that an employee and a company should remain connected ONLY as long as the relationship is mutually beneficial. Loyalty in a world of economic volatility and continuous change is simply unworkable. Integrity, on the other hand, works in all cycles of the economy and is entirely in the control of either party. Nothing forces a company to lie to its employees and nothing forces an employee to manipulate his or her employer. These are choices, decisions that, while not always pleasant, are always healthy.
Specifically, I ask my clients who are employers to dare to deal with their employees on the up and up. To acknowledge that relationships end because mutual benefit ends. I ask my clients who are employees to do the same. When each will face reality square on, then each is empowered to do the right thing and to press forward in the path that is best for each.
George Washington said that nations do not have altruism but only self interest. This is good economic counsel as well. As long as it is in the best (self) interest of both parties, then an employment relationship works and works well; the moment one shifts to manipulation, a disaster is in the works.
What say you?