Has Anyone Seen My Loyalty?

This great post by David Brady talks about misplaced loyalty to companies:

But it’s not sentient, and it’s not even necessarily evil–as long as its business model isn’t predatory, immoral or illegal. It’s just a collection of rules put down on paper. It is a thing. And not even a physical thing. A real thing, yes, but not a tangible one. Just a logical construct, fit only for one purpose: acquiring profit.

Being loyal to that is mere insanity. But being loyal to that over yourself is sickness.

I couldn’t agree more. There’s an important distinction, of course. Just because you shouldn’t be loyal to a company doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t be loyal to your colleagues.

Just like the squeezy ketchup bottle, loyalty is a great thing, if it’s pointed in the right direction.

Working at a company is an equation. The most cynical see it as something like this:

showing up for 40 hours a week = money

This is true, at the lowest level. But most people manage to get jobs where there’s more to it than just showing up. At this point the above equation doesn’t really apply, and that’s where “loyalty to the company” starts to seem like a good way for your brain to work out what’s going on.

The equation is still there, it’s just more complicated. Maybe it looks something like this:

doing your work diligently = money + satisfaction + self esteem

Maybe you don’t get much money or self esteem but you do get to contribute to a shared vision and mission that you really believe in. That can be a really important variable.

You can add whatever you like on either side, but the fact is, unless both parties feel it’s at least balanced (or in their favor) it’s unsustainable.

What loyalty does is add a heavy variable on one side of the equation which the company cannot match — in fact, as Brady says:

A corporation is not a living creature. It has no soul. It has no heart. It has no feelings. It can neither experience towards you nor enjoy from you even the concept of loyalty.

Be careful you don’t end up with this equation:

doing your work + loyalty = diddly squat and a pat on the back