Loyalty is defined as commitment or allegiance to a person, a group, or a cause. Sounds clear enough but loyalty often gets skewed in the workplace. Here are some examples where loyalty is distorted:
* A manager thinks an employee is being disloyal because he or she questioned what the manager was doing.
* A manager hears an opinion that he doesn't like from an employee and thinks he or she is being disloyal for speaking the truth.
* A manager thinks an employee is being disloyal for seeking the guidance of a supervisor in another department or organization.
* A manager asks an employee to lie to make him or her look good.
* A manager tries to create loyalty by fostering an environment of fear and threats.
* A manager asks an employee to take actions that are inappropriate and dishonest.
We all know that respect and trust cannot be demanded. They have to be earned. The same is true with loyalty. It has to be earned by the leader and cannot be expected or assumed as a given.
True loyalty is when there is a deep bond between the manager and the employee; they have a relationship based on mutual respect, consideration, and trust. True leaders foster loyalty in their employees by being loyal to them.
A recent survey of HR professionals and hiring managers conducted by CareerBuilder.com stated that "approximately 25% of employees do not feel loyal to their current employer. Around 20% say they are likely to leave their current position to change jobs within a year."
The top four reasons for disloyalty were:
1. "I don't feel my employer values me" (61%)
2. "My efforts are not recognized or appreciated" (52%)
3. "My employer doesn't pay enough" (51%)
4. "Not enough career advancement opportunities" (44%).
These are shocking results. So, what can we do about them?
Here are 8 ways that you can demonstrate your loyalty to your employees:
1. Clarify your values and goals. You must determine for yourself what you value in an employee. Do you want honesty and openness? Or, deception and dishonesty? Probably the first one, right? When you are absolutely clear that you want a work environment that encourages honesty you will attract it and the loyalty and respect will follow. Also consider what loyalty means to you? Don't forget to create a dialogue with your employee about what loyalty means to him or her. This ensures that everyone is on the same page.
2. Be honest yourself. You can't expect your employees to be loyal to you if you aren't being loyal to them by being honest and acting with integrity. Loyalty breeds loyalty just as dishonesty breeds dishonesty. Be truthful with your employees even if it hurts. Respect comes when your employees know that it cost you something to be honest with them.
3. Care for your employees. Get to know your employees as people first and then as workers. Seek opportunities to connect with them on a personal level. Get to know their interests, hobbies, aspirations, and goals. Your company's most valuable asset is not the service it provides or the product it makes - it's the people it employs. After all, if you didn't have employees, you wouldn't have a company. Treat them with the respect and care they deserve.
4. Trust your employees. Don't withhold crucial information or responsibilities from your employees. This will signal to them that you don't trust them and that will erode the confidence they have in your leadership. They will feel that they are not valued. They will not trust you and that creates a toxic environment for all involved. To get trust and loyalty from your staff members you must first give it to them.
5. Encourage employees to question you. Questioning or challenging you is not a sign of disloyalty. Rather it is a sign that your employee cares enough about you and the company to express his or her concerns honestly. This is something that you want. It gives you a chance to create a dialogue with your employee so that you can both discover solutions and answers for the issues. The employees to watch out for are the ones who don't challenge you since they may be disengaged employees!
6. Encourage growth opportunities. Encourage your employees to seek out advice and assistance from other managers and supervisors. This is not showing a lack of loyalty to you; it is aiding in your employee's professional growth because they get someone else's perspective. It allows them to gain confidence and to perceive you as being secure in your role as their leader. What a way to earn their respect!
7. Reward loyalty. Set up a reward or incentive program. Loyalty is not earned by giving big raises and gifts on an annual basis. The One-Year and Five-Year pins don't mean very much to employees anymore so reward them with something that is meaningful to them. Consider something that is unique and special just for him or her. You've created a relationship with your employee so it shouldn't be too difficult to find the right thing. If all else fails, ask them what their chosen reward would be!
8. Be sensitive to work/life conflicts. Effective and loyal leaders know that work is only one aspect of an employee's life. Loyal employers will foster an environment where employees are free to come to them with their work/life balance concerns so that they can together look for solutions. Employees are more loyal to their employers when they know that they are viewed as more than a cog in the wheel - they are a person too with other responsibilities outside of work. Take care to treat them as such and they will reward you with their loyalty.
Loyalty, like love, is meaningless without action behind it. Take these 8 ideas and integrate them into your leadership skills. Demonstrate loyalty to your employees and inevitably they will be loyal to you.