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  • Writer's pictureBill Holmes

The value of loyalty

project, program, portfolio, management, leadership
It's always about the money!

“Bureaucracy is a giant mechanism operated by pygmies.” Honore de Balzac

‘Bureaucracy defends the status quo long past the time when the quo has lost its status.” Laurence J. Peter Why is it that people working in so many organizations view their senior leadership as clueless at best and evil at worst? I have been and executive in my organization for over 17 years, so I suspect I may have been included in the “clueless or evil” group at times.

I think that there are two primary reasons why people lose faith in their leaders.

The first is that there is often a stunning lack of loyalty toward subordinates. Human beings make mistakes, and when that occurs organizations often adopt the mob like attitude of “nothing personal, just business” as they cheerfully administer punishment in whatever form. The persons contributions or sacrifices are almost never considered, rather the specific issue is adjudicated in a vacuum focusing specifically on that discrete event.

Even if there is no “bad act”, organizations often cast away hard working employees for no real reason. I have a very close colleague who was highly productive in their organization. They believed in the person who hired them and believed in the management team, even quitting a stable and well paying job to go to work there. They were an exceptionally high performer and represented the second highest profit center in the organization.

Just last week the owner of the company called her and a colleague and fired them. Two weeks before Christmas! Who does that??? The reason given was they needed to “trim salary”. For some reason they kept less productive people and let one of the highest performers go! Even if you believed the reason, the logic was flawed. Will my friend ever trust “management” again?


And that was that! My friend was out of work.

I have said in prior blogs that all the employer owes you is a paycheck, and all you owe them is a good job. But that level of callousness is shocking even by bad management standards.

The second reason is that the “performance” of senior leaders isn’t really measured. Running a large organization is hard! It involves having a deep understanding of core operations and making hard choices that won’t bear fruit for years. Gross! Who wants to do that when there are big new shiny initiatives to get started? And who is going to get a bonus for making an existing process 20% better, removing waste in processes or just making the day to day job environment better for the employees?

No one is.

But people are very smart. If they see their peer treated poorly, or that their leadership team doesn’t seem to be focused on their needs, they will disengage.


The “colleague” who got let go was my wife. She is a highly credentialed and experienced nurse, but she wanted to get away from the corporate environment and work where she could focus on the well being of the patients. She quit a lucrative job to go to work for a new company that promised to treat the employees with respect and focus on the patients. Things were going great! They expanded her geographic territory, asked her to train new hires and provide ongoing training for the other health care professionals. She also had the second highest client case load in the company, so she was a high performing profit center. Last Monday she was asked to meet with the owner, and on Friday she was let go. When she asked who would take her clients, he responded “I guess I need to figure that out.” It was a very poor decision, but I’m not surprised. Don’t worry about my wife, her skill stack is in high demand!


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