“No-one gets fired for poor performance, they get fired for disloyalty.”
This blog post is all about the power of loyalty to the King (or Queen) of your company. It outlines how the chain of loyalty works within most organizations.
We can think of any company as being a small fiefdom whereby the CEO is the undisputed ruler of the land, answerable only to God and the board of directors. The CEO rules by divine right absolute, and just like in any Monarchy, if the king or queen ask you to do something, you do it. Right?
Before I begin this discussion, I would like to ask, is it right that a CEO rule within their company like a Monarch? Well, I can’t really answer that. There are benevolent monarchies, but there are also monarchies that are full of corruption, inefficiency and treat their citizens in a manner that would shock most of us. Some citizens of these less than benevolent corporate governments way out by way of emigrating to other companies. It should be noted, inhumane nations try to prevent emigration. Similarly, bad employers try to keep their employees by preventing them from getting to interviews, giving bad reviews, and surveilling social media-based employment resources to ensure that their citizens stay loyal. In answer to my previous question, ‘is it right that some CEOs govern like a monarchy?’ well, it doesn’t matter. The fact is that most businesses function exactly like that.
Executive Point of View on The Chain of Loyalty
You absolutely want loyalty! You are very busy; you do not have time to be second guessed by people who don’t have as much information or understanding of your company as you do. If you allow yourself to be second guessed, you are opening the door for people to lose confidence and faith in your decisions; you might as well put the second guessers in charge.
When you tell someone what to do, you expect them to do it. You don’t expect them to tell you why they think you are making a mistake. You didn’t hire them for that, you should probably get rid of them.
If subordinates don’t believe in what you have asked them to do, they are going to perform it half-heartedly. Loyalty is something that you should demand from all members of your organization. You spend a lot of time thinking about your business, you have the experience; ultimately, it’s your job on the line. Loyalty, if they don’t like it, there are plenty of other places for them to work.
Of course, what we are really talking about here is public loyalty. Your mangers should, in every way, look committed to your ideas and decisions as if they were their own. They are allowed to disagree, but that disagreement should never be evident in any form: not in deed, word, action, or even facial expression. If they feel the need to disagree with you, let them do it in the privacy of your office, not in email; emails have a bad habit of becoming public. After they leave your office, you should hear nothing but sunshine, praise, and full cooperation; if not, you have a loyalty problem.
Additional note: As an executive, you should not blind yourself to the fact that loyalty will often cause your managers to agree with you, when really, they should advise you to rethink your decisions. Because they understand that people get fired for being disloyal, they have no incentive to provide you with negative feedback, which may anger you. If you have a history of punishing those who disagree, then don’t expect to hear any dissention. But, if they use the appropriate protocols of your office and privacy to present questions to you, you cannot punish dissenting voices. They are trying to help, you may explain to them, or you may not —manage as you see fit— but after airing their objection, they should return to work with full agreement and support of the plan.
Additional note: Disagreement with your idea does not indicate disloyalty. Loyalty is something that is proved, not professed. If an advisor is stating that your idea has a flaw in it, this does not mean they are disloyal. In fact, they may be proving loyalty by telling you when others would simply acquiesce. However, as an executive, you cannot afford to have someone show dissention from your opinion in public. Your managers need to know that if they do not approve of your plan, they need to take this up with you privately. If they can’t understand this, then you need to help them find work elsewhere.
Manager Point of View on The Chain of Loyalty
Often companies tell you that they reward those who work hard and produce results. Normally this comes from some well-meaning person who answers to whomever oversees Human Resources. And, if you watch them closely when they speak, they are telling you the truth, they will pass the lie detector because they believe it. However, you shouldn’t. Companies reward those who produce results and who are loyal, and sometimes, just the people who are loyal if company results are bad.
Remember that your boss doesn’t want to hear you question their decisions. They want you to implement what they have asked. If there is some problem doing that, you should take that up with them privately in their office. You don’t say anything once you have left your boss’s office. If you do, it will get around and if it gets to your boss, what do you think they are going to do to you? What do you think your chances of a raise, or a promotion are going to be? Even if you are right, especially if you are right, you are shooting yourself in the foot by saying anything disloyal to anyone.
If you are loyal to your boss, they will likely protect you from other bosses who have an issue with you. Because you are always acting in a loyal manner, they may feel protective of you. Even if you are lousy at what you do and routinely fail miserably, you will be safe if not in line for a promotion because you understand and demonstrate loyalty.
Loyalty from your Staff: Your staff are very important, they do all the work. Without them, you would have to do everything, and you don’t have that many hours in your day. But you need them to do what you tell them to do. If you are in a loyalty driven company, where every person in the chain reigns like a monarch over all the subordinates, then you also demand loyalty from your team. This is the Chain of Loyalty.
Your Staff and Loyalty to Above: What happens when your staff is loyal to someone above you in the chain and this conflict with your directions? You have a problem. You will likely have to cleanse your team of the disloyalty. But be aware, the problem wasn’t with the team, the problem was with you. Something that you were interpreting, was out of line with what your staff was interpreting as the directions of your superior. This is why they became unaligned with you. Look very carefully at what they were doing and what you were directing and ask yourself, ‘have you made a mistake?’ If your staff is in line with your superior and you are not, you can expect the gap in the chain of loyalty to be closed and the best way for your superior to do that is to remove you from the chain.
Do not expect loyalty to transfer downward. It always transfers upwards.
This gets us to the last bit on loyalty in a top-down organization. Do not expect loyalty to transfer downward. It always transfers upward, never downward; although, often employees mistake a manager’s protectiveness as loyalty; it is not. If you want to continue to enjoy the protection that loyalty provides; it is your responsibility to keep the chain of loyalty strong and healthy. If you stop demonstrating your loyalty, the chain will shrivel, and you will find yourself being pruned.
As such, you shouldn’t tolerate any public disloyalty in your own team. You can allow yourself to be questioned, but it must be in private, it cannot be public. Be understanding with your subordinate who disagrees privately, if they can’t keep the contents of your meeting secret, they must be replaced. If you allow yourself to be questioned publicly by your subordinates, you will be replaced.
Employee Point of View on The Chain of Loyalty
Why are you working for the company you are working for? For the majority us, it’s because you need a job. You have seen the quote above, and maybe you have snickered at it. ‘No-one gets fired for poor performance, they get fired for disloyalty.’ But you know that it is true. If there is any opportunity to prove that you are loyal to your superior, you should observe it. Most organizations are designed so that no-one is going to question your manager if they fire you for whatever reason they deem fit. They have the divine right, the approval, and delegation of the powers from their superior. If they are loyal to that superior, you will be snuffed with no-one asking anything more than, ‘who is next?’ to sit in your seat.
What do you do if you have a manager who is disloyal?
- Jump the chain and demonstrate your loyalty to their boss.
- Follow your bosses’ disloyal directions.
- Ignore your boss
- Try to reason with your boss.
- Find a middle ground.
If you jump the chain of loyalty, you had better be sure that your manager is not going to have the opportunity to take reprisals upon you. Your actions are, in fact, an act of disloyalty in themselves. If your superior fails to act on the disloyalty you display you may have put yourself in line for a promotion, but you had better be right.
If you follow your bosses’ disloyal directions, you are being loyal, and superiors may recognize that and forgive you. But, be careful not to be too ardent when demonstrating loyalty to your disloyal boss; you could be cleansed too. You are in a bad spot, you should act loyal to the disloyal boss, but be ready to make a switch as soon as things start getting interesting.
Ignoring your boss is always dangerous. It is also a sign of disloyalty. Only do this if you have a lame duck boss who can’t fire you and whose replacement is imminent.
Reason with your boss. If it works, it will score you loyalty bonus points with your boss. You might buy yourself time while you do some of what your boss wants, but not all of what your boss wants. During this time, your boss might see the light, but more likely they will be replaced. If they are replaced, you might be in position to inherit the position.
Finding middle ground. This is always the best strategy. You look loyal to everyone, but you look like the victim of a deluded boss. If you are openly disloyal to anyone above you in the chain of command you will likely be replaced, but if you show some loyalty to everyone, you will likely survive until the mess is cleaned up.
Understand, as a member of the lower levels of a company’s power structure, no-one owes you loyalty. Loyalty does not flow both directions. If you want loyalty to work for you, it’s because you are providing it. If you don’t provide it, expect to be replaced.
One Caveat: If you are too acquiescent, you may come across as obsequious, setting off your disloyal manager. Don’t tip your hand, you may have a manager who fears for their position because they are not following the chain of loyalty. This manager will rid themselves of you, and you will find yourself out the door.
But what do I do if the chain of loyalty is wrong: So what do you do if the company is misguided and being loyal means that you are helping drive the ship of fortune into the rocks? Remember, you can still make an awful lot of money before the ship crashes. Just be aware that the ship will crash, brace yourself for impact and make sure you cushion yourself with as much money and as many regal appointments and accolades as you can.
Really good companies don’t operate like this, but chances are, you are working for a normal, and not exceptional company; so, understanding the chain of loyalty is important. This applies to many organizations, charities, political organizations, small companies, large companies, homeowners’ associations. You name it, there is a very good chance that these companies operate on the chain of loyalty.
I am a writer of fiction. The content of this site is provided for entertainment and enjoyment purposes. I do not give investment advice; any investment decisions should be consulted through a qualified investment advisor. In addition, I do not provide legal advice. Consult a lawyer before taking any career action.