A friend of mine is about to receive a Rolex watch from his employer as gratitude for 25 years of service to the company.
What wows me, and I’m guessing most of us, is not the gift, but what it might be like to work for the same organization for that long!
As I was pondering it, a sepia-toned picture started to form in my brain, taking me back to a time when people aspired for and revered that kind of long-term loyalty; talking about the year in/year out commitment to ride the good and bad times in a company and in a career. It’s the ‘staying put’ when others are bailing in search of what would be better for them personally.
This virtue has fallen out of fashion in our fast-paced, short-term, digital world.
What is this kind of loyalty really worth to a company? A Rolex watch and then some for sure!
My friend and a few rare others have helped me understand what that loyalty looks like in everyday actions. What he does on the job — the decisions he makes when cutting a deal, making a purchase, or having a daily interaction with colleagues — is motivated more by the drive to do what’s good or right for the business than to serve his own personal needs.
It takes on many forms like:
- Acting as a fierce company advocate in difficult vendor negotiations, rather than choosing an easier but less beneficial path for the organization.
- Being willing to point out his own mistake and then ensuring it’s rectified in the company’s favor even if at personal cost.
- Defending an unpopular position with peers and leaders, because of a strong belief that it’s the best thing for the organization.
- Not giving up or giving in during troubled times.
Multiply those kinds of behaviors across a workforce, and it’s not hard to see the potential impact in an organization where loyalty is appreciated and rewarded. We all know it’s more than the gold watch …
That’s not to be naïve about the importance of “looking out for #1” in our careers. Yet, many of us complain that the balance has tipped too far in the direction of self-interest of late. An extreme example: the wildly out-of-whack compensation for CEOs of failing companies.
It is time to revitalize some of those valuable virtues, like loyalty, that have become so un-trendy. Hey, often we find that what‘s old becomes new again – look at the resurgence of old fashion baby names. When I was in grade school, we would have felt sorry for a kid named Adelaide or Evangeline (that was the era of Debbie and Linda).
So, maybe we could get our geek on. Recycle what’s fallen out of favor. Help these “oldies” become fresh and inspiring again!
Elise Cary is a Partner at PeopleResults. Follow her on Twitter @EliseCary.