March 20, 2013
6 Habits Of Truly Loyal Employees

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.

  • Tyrone Smith

    Don’t be fooled. Corporations view all the drones as equally worthless. You can be laid off or fired on a whim no matter how hard you work. They wouldn’t pay you at all if it weren’t for that “damn ‘mancipation proclamiation”. All you will get for busting your hump is a busted hump.

  • AnonymousSteve

    Is this what CEOs are reading nowadays? No wonder they’re so awful! This shows complete and willing ignorance about what motivates people. CEOs, ask yourselves – if you were big on “loyalty”, would you have ever quit your job and started that company? Yeah, thought so. How is “loyalty” important, unless you want a stupid employee whose only concern is compliance with your dumb ideas?

  • AnonymousSteve

    “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.”

    You *should* work hard to deserve it, especially considering you’re paying yourself on average 5000% more than your employees, which is absolutely undeserved, even after adjusting for job requirement and inflation. And no, it doesn’t “come with the territory”. It comes with your feelings of territoriality, and management quality that doesn’t reach nowhere near your paycheck.

    If people keep chipping away at the respect you try to deserve, it’s probably because you don’t really deserve it. Or you should be working harder for it.

    • Schifter

      Nice, you sound like another bitter socialist employee. Start your own business and stop complaining. Your cliches about business owners are, frankly, really gay.

  • aspiringCEO

    Loyalty if skilled for occasions is fake actually.

    I would say it is something which is a trait of an employee. This should not be very hard to judge rather it should be easy to find since you are loyal and know what loyalty actually mean to you.

    I think if you have a well defined process something like which can be utilized besides your experience you can obtain some measures to supplement your decision based on your experience.

  • Caroline MacDonald student

    I believe self assessments are a fantastic tool for evaluations, its good to have insight on what employees see as their strengths and weaknesses. Many times employees are harder on themselves, and it also serves as a reminder of all of the accomplishments they contributed to over the course of a year. I do wish i remembered every thing but I do not and its a great way to become informed. This provides a productive review discussion vs. debating what was or wasn’t done by memory during the review as items may have been overlooked. It’s a good way to organize the information prior to the I do not agree that it shows laziness as its not the review that is submitted but serves as a self assessment….supporting candid and productive feedback.

  • James T. Strong

    Hmmm. Messr. Smith seems to be disenchanted with capitalism. I’d wonder why, but it’d probably fill a book. In the meantime, allow me a few observations (I come from both a military and business background). First, if all an employee gets is a busted hump, the employee hasn’t contributed enough to warrant anything else, and this does NOT infer glut kissing. In the real world the appropriate adage is: one’s raise is effective when one is…effective. The corollary is: the more effective one is, the larger the rewards (i.e., the less hump busting one experiences). People who go through life getting their humps busted were never taught, or fail to realize or admit, that they only bring three things to any job: attitude, aptitude and attendance. This is NOT a simple formula. Each trait has many facets all of which have an impact on the success of the employee. To get out of the busted-hump mold simply requires attentiveness to these traits. What we see so much of, especially in younger employees, is a “the world owes me everything” attitude. This results in a failure to not just be “there” on time, but a failure to be mentally and physically engaged in an enthusiastic (attitude, remember) manner, and a willingness to constantly learn new things (aptitude, remember). I could go on to fill a book, but hopefully these tidbits will get Mr. Smith and those like him onto, or back onto, the road to success that’s open to everyone willing to try instead of expect. Remember: an employer, corporate or not, don’t owe an employee squat if the employee doesn’t advance the goal of the business. And, guess what, this is the case even in socialist economies and governments!

    • Sabianna

      Completely agree my boss is a person who treats the employees as people we make sure he doesn’t look stupid and he takes care of us if we need extra time off that’s paid or even a sane day we can get it as long as we have effective communication. This is the first company I’ve worked with that’s like that and I LOVE it. I get all of my work done effectively, feel good at the end of the day and we all compliment each other when we do something cool. Yes there are lazy ppl who work there but everybody knows who they are and they will never advance.

    • Schifter

      Wow you are cool. Wish I could buy you a beer. Cheers to you.

  • Dutchman61

    True to an extent, BUT in every example not once does he mention that the boss must be loyal back. I have worked for years as an engineering problem solver in aluminum and chemical plants. I have saved a number of manager’s careers and only once was even thanked. I was once fired at a plant that was sold to a new company. The new owners asked for costs to modernize which I generated in detail. The plant manager and engineering manager fired me because they submitted made up numbers for the new owner which I showed were less than half the minimum needed. Another man tried to set me up for problems due to an old chemical spill he never reported. I was doing remediation and stumbled across things. My outside consultant and I found the setup and our lawyers (I paid for that) found we were looking at felonies and jail time. I was able to redirect the work to clean up the problem and eliminate the legal issue without anyone knowing, but that was in retaliation for my not using contractors and suppliers who had under the table ties to him.

    The BEST compliment I ever received was for an emergency coolant system replacement in an aluminum rolling mill. No one would touch it as too high risk. I pulled it off early. The plant bookie told me he won more cash on that work (yes they bet on everything) than he won on the Superbowl and he took the bets because he was sure I would succeed. My manager at the time did not even thank me.

    Loyalty is a two way street.

  • Pith_n_Vinegar

    Sorry, but IMO Ms. 6-months doesn’t care about you, either. She’s just working on her resume for better conditions and more money. But hey, if hanging around with brown nosers is your thing, go for it.