Trust, and its byproduct confidence, is an absolutely essential element in any organization. Loyalty is on the extreme spectrum of trust, yet many organizations tend to expect both of their employees. I have come to believe that asking loyalty is too much for most organizations.
Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn, Ben Casnocha, Author, and Chris Yeh, Wasabi Ventures writing in this month’s Harvard Business Review focus on the basic elements of the trust spectrum. They argue persuasively that employees should be treated as allies rather than loyal subjects. Alliances, as we know, can alter over time as facts on the ground or strategic shifts demand. They feel that the alliance model is a far more honest one in which both parties may properly understand expectations. I agree and think Lord Palmerston (twice PM and once Foreign Secretary for Queen Victoria) said it best, writing “…Britain had no eternal allies and no perpetual enemies, only interests that were eternal and perpetual.”
I have long believed that most of what upper management tends to believe about their workforce’s loyalty to the organization is more likely a high incidence rate of common interest and objectives. Many HR pros have experienced the rash of turnover following changes in long-held objectives.
Another potentially workable model in strongly structured environments is the Tour of Duty also recommended by Messrs. Hoffman, Casnocha and Yeh in May of 2013. This model relies on trust built through an established commitment.
Undoubtedly more models will emerge as HR pros work to foster employment dynamics reflective of our evolving organizational designs. Our antique labor laws are not friendly to these efforts. We can expect our Department of Labor, deeply in thrall to ossified labor unions, to actively oppose transformative efforts. No matter; progress marches on.