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Company Loyalty
This week's link roundup from LinkedIn brought this interesting article, on the qualities of a "Truly Loyal Employee". It's well-stated, and I largely agree with it -- the main thrust is that the sort of "loyal" you want isn't a yes-man, it's someone who is working sincerely and hard to make the company successful.

That said, something's bothering me about it, and I think it's the word "loyalty". It may be partly my own anti-authoritarian reflexes, and it may be because the word is so often misused, but the word makes me twitch in this context. Many folks take "loyalty" as binary -- you're either loyal or disloyal (that is, a traitor), when the reality is a very complex spectrum.

So I prefer to think of it in terms of *partnership*. Employees who think of themselves as "loyal" often do so out of fear, and that's exactly wrong. I want employees who feel like they are, in a real sense, equal partners with the company. That leads to folks who aren't uncritically loyal, won't put up with abuse, and also won't put up with *stupid*. The company has to prove itself to employees-as-partners, on an ongoing basis, every bit as much as the employees have to prove themselves to the employer. That provides a nice balance against a lot of the negative internal forces that lead companies to gradually become dumber. (Fear of change, personal arrogance, the SNAFU Principle, and so on.)

Of course, that's a nice ideal, but not trivial to realize. Institutionalizing courage is tricky stuff, and balancing it against actually making decisions moreso. I suppose that it starts with establishing a culture of respect and open-mindedness at all levels.

Hmm -- thoughts for me to remember. It'll be a long time before we get to the point of actually hiring anybody, but I need to remember this basic principle...

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Yep. The best companies I've worked at have had this quality -- we would have *passionate* arguments on a regular basis, but everybody understood that eventually we had to settle down and make a decision, and that nobody was going to win every time. When it ran smoothly, the decision tended to take most of the viewpoints at least somewhat into account, but we knew that this wasn't a democracy...

Have to keep your eyes open at who you are working with. There may be a couple of honest, "loyal" professionals, and a bunch of assholes taking care only of their well-being; guess who will win and stay and who will go. I was "loyal" in all the companies I worked at, and so? You say unpleasant things or you just care about the quality of the software, just try to introduce testing (which makes judgment more objective regarding the quality), and then what? There's always "performance" word that can be abstractly applied, because - who's the judge?

So, this is nice... can LinkedIn apply all this to itself, by the way?

Well, this is part of why I prefer working with early-stage startups. It's a nicely Darwinian environment in many ways, one of which is that, if there are too many self-serving asshats, it will fall apart pretty efficiently...

:) Me too. Not perfect, but much better; now I see it's not only my observation.

It's hard for me to think about ideals of how employees might be loyal to their employers without also thinking of how the employers might be loyal to the people who work for them. By which I mean "if," more than "how."

Correct, but that's a mark of a good employer. (You could probably argue that it is *the* mark of a good employer.) They do certainly exist -- I would probably count the majority of my employers as "good" in that respect.

Indeed, I wound up staying at Memento for over three years -- despite it being *wildly* off what I thought of as my career path, and not being in my main areas of interest -- in no small part because the company showed me considerable loyalty while msmemory was dying. They didn't just err on the side of being generous, they pretty much engaged in deliberate fictions about how productive I was being, in order to help me through those hard months.

The result was that I stayed with the company for over another year, despite being pretty restless, and gave them three months' notice when I did decide that I'd had enough. They (where "they" particularly means my boss, but as far as I can tell she wasn't getting much pushback over it) had earned it...

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