Is there such a thing as too much loyalty?

January 26, 2023

Is there such a thing as too much loyalty?

You’ve probably heard the quote, “Respect is earned. Honesty is appreciated. Trust is gained. Loyalty is returned.” 

If you are a business owner or leader of a team or organization, you know that your people are your most valuable assets. After all, without people to lead, you can’t really consider yourself a leader.

We hate bad investments. As much as possible, we want returns on our investment, or at the very least, to break even. You invest time, resources, and effort in every person that passes through your organization, and you want that to be a good investment too. 

From an HR perspective, retention is a good indicator of a good investment in talent or people. People stay because they find it meaningful to continue working in your company, and you don’t see the need to let them go because their performance meets or exceeds your expectations.

That’s why there is so much emphasis on work culture, employee engagement, job satisfaction, and loyalty.

In an ideal world, loyalty is cultivated in an environment where the employer has their employees’ best interests at heart, invests in their growth, and has a vision powerful enough to make their work meaningful. By remaining devoted to the company and its goals, the employees repay the favor.

Good management is critical to building employee loyalty. According to Gallup’s research, 70% of workers’ motivation is influenced by their manager. An effective manager creates a good working environment for the team that makes them want to stay and motivates them to proactively contribute to the team’s success. 

The team is more engaged, more satisfied, and, in turn, can be more productive.

However, a poor manager can alienate employees at work, regardless of how admirable the company's branding or alluring compensation may be. As they say, “People don’t quit their jobs; they quit their [bad] bosses.”

While loyalty is a good indicator of a healthy working culture and brings a lot of benefits to the organization, being too loyal has its risks too.

Too much loyalty can encourage unethical behavior, causing workers to ignore workplace problems like corruption. It is human nature to want to protect the community they belong to and would be willing to overlook the wrongdoings of members of their group, even when they know it is biased against “others” outside the group.

Sometimes, this willingness to participate in or become an accomplice to unethical behaviors is also motivated by a fear of being kicked off the team or “rocking the boat.”

The in-group vs. out-group mentality can also cause division and toxic competition inside your organization, which we often see between different teams or departments in bigger corporations.

Knowing that loyalty has both benefits and downsides, it is important to manage our “loyalty.”

Create a culture of transparency and accountability where employees feel safe to bring up issues when they see them. Sometimes, friction is better than staying silent to avoid confrontations. 

When it matters, employees must have a safe channel to raise concerns when something is wrong, where they can do so without fear of retaliation or feeling like they're "rocking the boat," and where they can be sure that their concerns will be taken seriously and dealt with appropriately.

Competition is good when you want to motivate performance, but a collaborative work dynamic is more beneficial to the organization in the long run. Finding ways to balance healthy competition and collaboration in your work culture is a great way to keep everyone engaged and motivated to work together and grow together while discouraging underhanded tactics to get ahead.

Sometimes, when you feel like too much loyalty is a problem in your organization, taking a step back and looking at the issue from a distance can help bring things into perspective.

And at the end of the day, loyalty is something that is returned. If you want to build loyalty at work, as the leader, you have to be the one to give it to your team first.

Thanks for reading “A Brilliant Tribe.”