Sunday, April 18, 2010

Why is loyalty a four letter word ?

A very nice piece from Lucy Kellaway in today’s Financial Times touched me. It touched me because it could be me she was writing about. Lucy is a brilliant journalist and her pieces in the FT are something I always read – she brings a down to earth realism, without the spin, that is very refreshing.

This is a topic most readers of this blog will not relate to, for you are young and probably at the start of your careers. Some of you have progressed a bit and a double digit in the experience line is close or already there. Pause and think – is loyalty really an anachronism in today’s world.

I have posted before on this topic here. But Lucy’s column prodded me to muse again on this old fashioned concept.

All relationships in life have a certain degree of long termism to them. The majority of people on earth are loyal to their parents all through their lives. Ditto to their spouse. Ditto to their children. Just because there’s a prettier girl down the street (new exciting opportunity in business parlance), do you just ditch your partner and go running ? No. Just because your child’s classmate is a whiz kid (greater return for investment commercially), do you ditch your child ? No. Equally so with friends. I would look with horror at a friend who only wanted to be a friend because I had some value to offer at that time.

What about material possessions we own. Just walk into any household and we’ll find junk, decades old, which nobody wants to throw out. You own your house for most of your lifetime. You buy a house for “investment” and land up holding it forever. Equally so your TV, your fridge, your music system, whatever, until it dies.

Same applies to thoughts and beliefs and tastes. If you like curd rice and mango pickle, chances are that you’ll hold on to it forever, even if caviar and champagne is on the menu. You watch the same soap for years and years; you support the same sports team even for generations. If you like old movie songs, you’ll continue to like them for a long time (how many times have you said they don’t make movies/songs like the gems of the old anymore). Zeno will continue to be fascinated by Tamannah for ever !

The business world should be no different, at least up to a point. Man is a creature of habit. There’s some comfort in familiarity. Commitment (on both sides) is a virtue and not a vice. Its all very well to jump ship all the time and maybe you’ll get a little more money (that’s to be proven), maybe a grander title, maybe a faster promotion, whatever. But are people who jump around really satisfied ? Do they feel happier ? Do they make relationships that transcend their jobs ? Do they achieve something more than earning the daily bread ? What do you work for ? Not an easy question to answer.

Of course, it’s a two way street. Companies should also be worthy of loyalty and should be equally committed. Unfortunately they are not deserving as this post argues. But the onus is on us too. If we show some commitment we may be pleasantly surprised that it is reciprocated.

Oh; never mind. I know this is an anachronistic ancient view. Don't take too much notice of this nostalgic old foggy blabbering away.