Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Right Continuum

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?


Andrew and Faith said...

Interesting take on employment, but it only works if the actions are reciprocal. Both loyalty and integrity must be reciprocated. The problem comes when integrity is only a facade for manipulation. I as an employee may be high on both the loyalty axis and the integrity axis, but if my employer is low on the integrity axis, it will be easy for him/her to manipulate me. In fact that is what will happen. Maybe I misunderstand your point, but it seems like you simply advocate understanding reality. We all would like to understand reality and KNOW if an employer or employee is manipulative or truly has integrity. If only we could see the heart...

Mike Baer said...

I agree with your point that a company or an individual can be manipulative while pretending sincerity. However, in the final analysis, I don't care that much. What I mean by "integrity" is that if this job or the way I'm being treated or the way you are working for me is no longer mutually beneficial (meaning, no longer beneficial to me) then I will tell you and act on that reality. The motives of the other party (while meaningful on a spiritual level) are totally irrelevant to the situation. If my company is manipulating me but it's working for me, then how am I the loser? If, on the other hand, they are entirely sincere but it's NOT working for me, then why would I stay. In this sense, integrity means dealing with reality and acting in truth. Leave or stay...what works?