Batuhan: Damaged loyalty

“MORE and more, employees define loyalty as it pertains to the job at hand. They are hired to perform specific tasks and will learn and do them the very best they can. Once they feel they have mastered this role, they will seek out a new opportunity in order to have more responsibility and/or higher wages. The mentality is, “You pay me to do X, I do X, and we are even.” Whether the next step comes from within their current organization or they have to make a move, they have fulfilled their obligation and were loyal in doing so. Hence, whether one works for a company 10 years or 10 months, they consider that “loyal.”

The workplace has become transactional for the employee. More and more workers are taking the view (and rightfully so) that they are the sole drivers of their own careers. The concept of climbing the corporate ladder leaves too much of that control in the hands of others. In the traditional corporate ladder model, growth (either in skills, leadership or compensation) can be too easily hindered.” (Peter K. Murdock, “The New Reality Of Employee Loyalty,” Forbes Magazine, Dec. 28, 2017)

During the phenomenal boom years of the Japanese economy, a great deal of their success was attributed on the degree of loyalty that the workers had to their companies.

Much was made of workers who were practically “lifers,” starting their jobs with one company, and staying there until they retired. It wasn’t just in the cradle to grave career culture where this loyalty was most visible, but also in the work ethic of the employees. Without thought to personal comfort or benefit, workers routinely stayed behind after their shifts to complete their tasks, often doing so without added compensation. The consequence was unprecedented quality and productivity of Japanese companies which led to their dominance in their respective fields, for pretty much most of the 1980s until the turn of the millennium.

Corporate loyalty, to be sure, was not just a one-way street. It was cultivated and nurtured by Japanese companies showing the same mutual attitude towards their people as well.

Remarkable stories abound of companies at that time holding on to their workers during periods of economic downturn, where businesses in other countries would respond by laying off members of their workforce in the thousands. American companies, for instance, were well-known for this. Every time any business went into any sort of trouble, you can be sure that one of the predictable countermeasures would involve some sort of reduction in the workforce, to cut down on costs.

Just about a generation into the third millennium, the concept of loyalty in the workplace has turned on its head. As the piece from Forbes above attests, relationship-based loyalty has pretty much made way for situational or transactional loyalty. Only as long as both parties mutually benefit each other does “loyalty” exist. Absent this, and the whole relationship falls apart.

United States President Donald Trump, a businessman and now most powerful politician in the world, best exemplifies how this transactional type of loyalty works in practice.

Last week, in a move that was never before seen in US foreign diplomacy, the President single-handedly decided to pull American troops out of the Syrian-Turkish border, effectively abandoning the Kurds, the US’ loyal allies in the fight against Isis, to the mercy of Turkish forces hell-bent on wiping them out from the face of the earth. With the transaction (fighting Isis) effectively over, Trump feels no more loyalty to his former allies, their past sacrifices be damned.

There is a postscript to this, however, that the President has not taken into account. Once damaged, loyalty is notoriously difficult to repair.

So guess what happens next time Isis rears its ugly head again in the region?


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