Perhaps this should have come at the head of the list. Leaders who are not loyal to their trust and to their associates – those above and below them – cannot long maintain their leadership. Disloyalty marks people as being less than the dust of the earth, and brings down on their head the contempt they deserve. Lack of loyalty is one of the major cause of failure in every walk of life. – Napoleon Hill
[This is the 8th in a series discussing the causes of leadership failure presented by Napoleon Hill]
Defined on Dictionary.com as “the quality of being disloyal; lack of loyalty; unfaithfulness,” and “a violation of allegiance or duty, as to a government,” disloyalty represents a lack of faithfulness. When discussing synonyms of the word, the website says, “Disloyalty applies to any violation of loyalty, whether to a person, a cause, or one’s country, and whether in thought or in deeds.” Thus, this cause of leadership failure carries the sense of faithlessness and betrayal of trust. It applies to a person’s actions towards both individuals and organizations. Additionally, it encompasses not just our deeds but one’s thoughts as well.
While we all acknowledge some people display disloyalty, is it a serious problem in the workplace? According to an article by Sybil F. Stershic, a marketing and organizational advisor with more than 30 years of experience helping service-based companies develop employee- and customer-focused solutions to improve bottom-line success, the answer is a resounding “Yes!” Citing a 2007 Walker Information study entitled Loyalty in the Workplace, she notes, “The percentage of “high risk” employees (36%) – those who plan to leave their employer within the next two years – now outnumbers the percentage of loyal employees (34%). This trend is frightening when you consider the costs of lost productivity and high turnover.” Obviously, it’s a problem worth our attention. Even Napoleon Hill commented that this particular cause of leadership failure possibly tops the list!
Let’s examine three areas: Where does disloyalty take root in a person? How does disloyalty manifest itself? What can we do to weed out any disloyalty possibly lurking within us?
How’s Your Faith?
David Byrd defines faith through this affirmation: “I am sure of what I hope for and certain of what I do not see!” That’s very similar to the definition of faith provided by the apostle Paul at Hebrews 11:1, which says, “Faith is the assured expectation of things hoped for, the evident demonstration of realities though not beheld” (NWT). Thus, faith encompasses an assured hope and a certain belief in the unseen. How does this apply to business? Whether an owner, a high level executive, a manager, or an employee, you hope for certain things and believe in the organization’s ability to achieve that hope.
Disloyalty equates with unfaithfulness. Essentially, for this discussion, it means losing hope and lacking assurance of or confidence in the ability of an organization or it’s members to deliver as promised. If you no longer trust a person or business to do what they say, you take it upon yourself to make things happen, even if that means going around or through them. Therefore, a key component in combatting disloyalty is developing faith.
Knowing the cause, how does disloyalty manifest itself?
It’s All About Me, Myself, and I
In her article, Ms. Stershic listed the top experiential drivers of loyalty. So, presenting their antitheses, disloyalty manifests itself as:
- A lack of fairness at work
- A lack of employer care or concern
- A lack of trust in employees
- No feelings of employee accomplishment
- No day-to-day satisfaction
At the heart of all the above is an inherent selfishness. Far from the justified self-interest we all need to manifest, the above conditions stem from a leader that only has his or her own concerns in mind. If you’re focused solely on self, fairness flies out the window because in your own mind you are fair. After all, you’re doing what’s necessary to get ahead! What could be more fair than that? Since your concern is all about you, there’s nothing left for anyone else, including employees, direct reports, peers, or supervisors. Obviously, you can only trust yourself, so why make the mistake of displaying trust in others? As long as you look good and move forward, everything is right in the world. Therefore the only accomplishments that matter are yours…which means there’s no need to share credit with anyone else. After all, you made it happen, right? Thus, at the end of the day, your satisfaction is what matters most. You’re only responsible for you. Everyone else has to fend for themselves!
That thinking is a recipe for disaster, and will derail your career as leader faster than a Wile E. Coyote attempt to catch the Road Runner fails. So how can you guard against developing disloyalty? Just as importantly, how can we weed out any seeds of disloyalty already in our psyche?
Watch for the Little Things
Since disloyalty has roots in selfishness, understand that it’s part of our nature. Thus, we’ll always have a tendency towards disloyal acts. However, like other inherent tendencies, we can guard against it if we know the signs of it in action. What are some things to guard against? Here are a few things to watch:
- Focusing on the faults of others. All of us are imperfect. If we’re looking for errors, they’re easy to find. Therefore, if you find yourself excessively fault-finding, maybe you’re on the road leading to disloyalty. Why? Because if all you see are others’ faults, then you have no reason to trust them, and without trust, there’s no real basis for loyalty. The challenge is that it’s easy to say be on the guard for excessive fault-finding, but it’s not easy to do. At the moment, you feel perfectly justified in pointing out (mentally or verbally) the shortcomings of those around you. So take stock of yourself at the end of a day and ask if you saw more good in people than flaws. If you find yourself more on the side of noticing errors in others, you may need to work on your attitude towards them.
- Displaying a lack of empathy. If you find yourself no longer relating to the feelings of others, maybe it’s time to check yourself. Empathy allows you to deal fairly with others, and to display care and concern. Don’t mistake displaying empathy with coddling others. A good leader allows those around him or her to shoulder their own loads. Yet that same leader understands not just what others do but also the circumstances surrounding those actions. This let’s a leader “get in the head” of an individual, thus better judging how to treat them in a given situation. “I hear what you’re saying, but that just opens the door to sob stories muddying the waters. People still have to follow the rules!” True, rules are there for a reason and it’s the responsibility of a leader to enforce them. Yet, if you find yourself focusing on the letter of the law instead of the spirit behind it, you’re in trouble. That’s especially true if you’re enforcing a law with a view towards promoting yourself at the expense of others. Which leads to the next point.
- Taking credit needlessly. We all want recognition for our work. If you’ve accomplished something significant, naturally you want it acknowledged. So does everyone else. So if you find yourself taking sole credit for collaborative efforts, you’re displaying disloyalty. This increases the tendency of those on your team to distrust you in the future, reduces their sense of accomplishment, and flatlines any sense of satisfaction they have at work. You can bet they won’t push hard to make you look good the next time you head a project. Thus, they lose, the company loses…and you lose. Interestingly, this usually manifests itself in small ways, like not giving proper attribution to the source material used in research. Once taking credit for others work in little things becomes a habit, doing so in big things is just around the corner.
No doubt we can add to this list, but it gives you a broad strokes overview of things to guard against in our personalities. If you find that you’re doing great in these areas, bravo! Keep doing what you’re doing, even while keeping your guard up to ward off selfish tendencies. If you find there’s a problem in any of these areas, what can you do?
First, give yourself credit for making an honest self-examination. That’s huge! I’m betting most who manifest disloyalty never stop to think about their actions, much less seek ways to change them. Then, get to the root cause, which is a lack of faith. In whom or what have you lost faith? What caused you to lose your faith? Is it something over which you have control, and can therefore fix? If so, take steps to restore that faith. If you find you have no control over what caused your loss of faith, then ask the hard questions: Can you learn to live with the situation as it stands? If not, are you in a position to move on? Ultimately, if you can’t restore your faith in a person or organization, you’ll never be truly happy, and you’ll never have the loyalty needed to find success in your efforts.
Disloyalty is a powerful cause of failure in leaders that finds its roots in a lack of faith. By watching for the signs of lost faith in the people and organizations with which we work and taking steps to address the underlying causes, we can prevent disloyalty from taking root in our personalities. Doing this will lead to greater satisfaction for ourselves and others, along with increased accomplishment. In the end, everyone wins when leaders guard against disloyalty.
Have you experienced or displayed disloyalty in the past? How did you handle it? What was the outcome? Share your thoughts and experiences in the Comments below.
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- Growing Workplace Disloyalty? (theworkplace.wordpress.com)
- Taking Credit (www.aish.com)
- The Essentials to Lead from the Front (benchmarkemail.com)
- Loyalty (chechar.wordpress.com)
- Loyalty To Your Leaders (apostleernestturner.wordpress.com)