Loyalty has absolutely nothing to do with length of employment.
Who is more loyal: The 20-year veteran employee who does just enough to get by, criticizes you and your company at work and in public and sometimes even undermines your decisions — or the employee who’s been with you six months, embraces where you want to go and works her butt off every day to help you and your company get there?
Sure, experience matters, but I’ll take the six-month employee every time.
Loyal employees are loyal to your company. They work hard for their pay and are committed to your company’s success. Loyal employees may someday leave, but while they work for you they do their best and often even put the company’s interests ahead of their own.
Truly loyal employees hit the next level. They aren’t just loyal to the company.
They’re also loyal to you — even though their loyalty can be displayed in surprising ways.
Here are six qualities of truly loyal employees:
1. They treat you like a person.
Remember when you were in elementary school and you ran into your teacher at, say, the grocery store? It was really strange. She wasn’t supposed to exist outside of school. You didn’t see your teacher as someone who wore shorts and a Grateful Dead T-shirt and actually had a life.
Your teacher wasn’t a person; she was a teacher.
Lots of employees see their bosses that way, too. That means they don’t see you as someone with dreams and hopes and insecurities and fears. You’re not a person; you’re a boss.
Truly loyal employees embrace both sides of the employer-employee relationship: They realize you want what’s best for them by helping them reach their professional and personal goals — and they also want what’s best for you, both at work and in your personal life.
They see you as more than just a boss, and they treat you that way.
2. They tell you what you least want to hear.
As a general rule, the more rungs on the ladder that separate you and an employee the less likely that employee is to openly disagree with you. For example, your direct reports may sometimes take a different position or even tell you that you’re wrong. Their direct reports, though, are much less likely to state a position other than yours.
And entry-level employees will sing directly from the company songbook, at least when you’re the audience.
Truly loyal employees know that you most need to hear what you least want to hear: That your ideas may not work, that your point of view is wrong or that you made a mistake.
They’ll tell you because they know that although you might not care much for what you hear, you do care tremendously about doing what is best for your company and your employees.
3. They never criticize you in front of others.
“Bash the boss” is a game almost every employee plays, at least occasionally. (One of your employees is probably talking about you right now.) Partly they criticize you because it’s a way of letting off steam, but mostly they do it because we all think, at least some of the time, that we can do a better job than the person we work for.
Criticism, mocking, sniping — when you’re in charge it comes with the territory.
It also chips away at the respect you work so hard to deserve.
Truly loyal employees get that. They don’t gossip, they don’t snipe, they don’t talk behind your back — they give you the respect, even when you’re not around, that they expect to receive.
4. They disagree in private.
Debate is healthy. Disagreement is healthy. Weighing the pros and cons of a decision, playing devil’s advocate, sharing opinions — every leader wants to hear what his or her team thinks. It’s not just enlightening. It’s stimulating.
Truly loyal employees trust they can share their opinions as freely as you do. In fact, they trust that you want them to — because you and the company benefit from an honest exchange of differing opinions and points of view.
But once a decision is made…
5. They totally support your decisions — and you — in public.
I guarantee you’ve been in at least one meeting where someone said, “Look, I don’t think this is the right thing to do, but I’ve been told we’re going to do it anyway. So let’s at least try to give it our best shot.”
After that little speech does anyone ever try to give it their best shot?
Even when they disagree with a decision, truly loyal employees don’t try to prove you wrong.
They do everything they can to prove you right.
6. They tell you when they need to leave.
I’ve never known a truly loyal employee that wasn’t also truly outstanding.
So you want them to stay. You need them to stay.
Still, sometimes they need to leave: For a better opportunity, for a different lifestyle, to enter a new field, or to start their own business.
But they also know their departure will create a tremendous hole so they let you know what they’re thinking to give you plenty of time to prepare.
Granted, being willing to tell you well ahead of time they plan to leave, or are just thinking about leaving, means they trust you to an exceptional degree. Clearly they know you won’t start to treat them differently or fire them on the spot.
They trust you because they’ve been loyal to you.
After all, they have put your interests ahead of theirs a number of times — and now they know you’ll do the same for them.