Loyalty and its Role in the Employee and Employer Relationship For many businesses, employee loyalty is a prerequisite for any job seeker in the marketplace, especially now that the economy is still recovering from a major recession. Employers are picking from a large base of potential employees, and selecting the right one isn’t all about skills and experience; should a company suspect that an employee is a potential liability with respect to loyalty, the large population of available replacements serves as an effective deterrent and potential solution.
Still, regardless of economic health, there are many who say that employee loyalty is impossible or inadvisable. These objections to loyalty – a concept that, ostensibly, seems like an auspicious virtue – range from a business’ inability to reciprocate loyalty, to challenges to the very idea that employee loyalty is even possible. Duska’s article: “Whistle-Blowing and Employee Loyalty” is a good summation of the breadth of objections to employee loyalty.
But for many reasons, these objections are misguided and off base, and in fact, employee loyalty is a good thing for both employer and employee. In his article, Duska bases his entire argument on the idea that since the relationship between an employee and his employer is one-sided, meaning that an employer expects the employee to sacrifice some of his own beliefs and practices in favor of that of the company, loyalty toward that company cannot be justified.
Loyalty, by its nature, cannot be directed at a company, as a company is incapable of returning this loyalty. He makes the point that a company will not hesitate to fire its employee should the employee not conform himself to the duties expected of him. He describes loyalty as an inherently two-way relationship, and if a company cannot reciprocate loyalty to its employees, then they have no reason or obligation whatsoever to be loyal to the company. He argues next that unreciprocated loyalty to a company can both be dangerous and morally compromising.
He states that an employee who is irrationally loyal to a company at the expense of himself can fall into the mindset that he is merely a cog in the company and is doing no wrong in enabling the company to perpetuate immoral acts. It is important to make a distinction between Duska’s idea of employee loyalty and the ideas that Stieb and others have of the concept. A traditional executive might expect that, since the employee is compensated and works for his company, that he should accept and comport himself in a manner conducive to the company’s profit margin.
This might include staying silent when his personal morality is in contrast to the company’s actions, or remaining in the business when better job opportunities present themselves. It is this sort of loyalty that Duska objects to. Stieb et Al. view employee loyalty as beneficial to both parties, but their ideas on the nature and consequence of loyalty are different. They approach the idea of loyalty holistically in that actions have repercussions beyond short term profits and well being of a company.
They argue that, for instance, whistle blowing is an inherently loyal practice, something both Duska and a traditional executive would probably disagree with as it would likely harm the reputation and public perception of the company itself (Bok), and that if an employer and employee can find a way to recognize that their self interests are aligned (for reasons to be discussed,) issues of retainment and trust can be subsequently easily resolved.
Those who make the case that employees do not have an intrinsic duty to be loyal to their employers often make the argument that, as Duska puts it, that loyalty “works both ways and involves mutual enrichment,” (Duska, 243) implying that employers are incapable of reciprocating loyalty to their employees. However, the question that should be asked about Duska’s argument here is whether loyalty needs to be reciprocated at all.
We often speak of loyalty to one’s favorite sporting team, or to a particular brand of car; both of which have no particular impetus or obligation to return the favor. It therefore cannot be said that loyalty must be reciprocated. But is it a mistake, as Duska claims it is, to be loyal to a company? What sort of benefits could a company have from remaining loyal to an employee, if there are any at all? Those questions can be answered with only a little bit of thinking.
For instance, an employee with skill in a particular field will certainly be more valuable to a company than someone less so, so it is in that company’s best interests to retain him and make a better offer against another company seeking to hire that employee away. The argument can also be made that an employee and an employer have mutual interests. For instance, when the company does well financially, the employee’s job is more secure and his prospects for better pay increase.
One the opposite side, an employer will benefit from an employee who feels obligated to protect the company’s interests, as he will work harder and be more motivated by the prospects of the company’s success. Stieb makes the argument that “loyalty is actually based on enlightened self-interest,” (Stieb, 76) so when two parties with the same interests come together, their cooperation is mutually beneficial, as should be the case between employer and employee. Of course, there is the occasion when a company seeks its own self interest to the detriment of the interests of others.
Say for instance, a company is polluting a water source with mercury waste, as happened in the Japanese city of Minamata, when a certain chemical company refused to help clean up its waste after it was proved its mercury waste was poisoning the local water sources. Sissela Bok argues that in cases like these, loyalty to one’s employer can corrupt and skew one’s moral prerogatives. (Bok) However, it is in these cases when ethical loyalty is most important. The chemical company which caused the mercury poisonings was charged with heavy penaltys and saw its profits plummet due to bad press and government fines.
Many of its employees were aware of the situation beforehand, but did not blow the whistle ostensibly on the grounds of loyalty to their company. However, Stieb, Larmer and others argue that true loyalty would be to whistle blow, as alerting the authorities or otherwise speaking out would have likely prevented further damages and preserved the company’s reputation. Varelius puts it nicely when he states that whistle-blowing “serves the moral good of the employer. (Varelius, 263) In that case, employee loyalty can be defended both as a means to serve the good of the company and the related communities. The argument is also made that employee loyalty is, in effect, irrelevant. An employee’s expectation of his company, in the large majority of cases, is mostly to be paid for his work. While it is important for an employee to care and be motivated about his work, there are many businesses in the job market, and, in better economic conditions, lots of opportunities for an employee to seek better ork when he feels that his pay is insufficient. Thus, if an employee’s primary concern is with compensation, then he is essentially not loyal to his company but rather to his own self interests. But as argued before, it is possible for a company and an employee, even one whose concern is confined to his own interests, to share their own interests. If an employer wants to increase its employee’s productivity, it is perhaps most effective for it to see to it that its employees interests are taken care of in a sufficient manner.
Bit is this really loyalty? One can make the argument that it is merely the act of placating the employee with higher pay; the employee is only remaining at the company because his pay is good, not because he feels any intrinsic obligation to be loyal for the sake of being loyal. But once again, the employee, upon receiving better pay, has a reason now to work harder and remain at the company; his pay and career opportunities are made better when he genuinely feels as if the company’s best interests are his own.
And they are; his pay concerns are directly related to the long-term success of the business. It has been argued that Duska’s interpretation of Loyalty is inherently wrong and that his concerns regarding the disloyalty of whistle blowing and the exercise of loyalty to a company are fundamentally off base. Because a company and its employee share the same self interests after all is said and done, it is in both of their interests to remain loyal to each other, and therefore loyalty is both justified and obligatory.
Duska’s concerns over the relevancy of loyalty are addressed as well as his problems with unquestioned loyalty to a company. As Duska’s objections to loyalty concern the kind of loyalty that a traditional executive might expect of his employees, it cannot be stated that Duska would even disagree with the premise of the argument presented as contrary to his views, only that his definition of loyalty is inherently different to the one used here.
Despite this, there is in fact a problem with his use of the word ‘loyalty’ and how its use can be justified. Loyalty is indeed possible between an employer and employee, and it is in fact in the best interests of both (and perhaps the surrounding communities) that loyalty is perpetuated. Works Cited Duska, Ronald. “Wisle-Blowing and Employee Loyalty. ” Johnson, Deborah G. Ethical Issues in Engineering. Upper Saddle River: Prentice-Hall, Inc. , 1991. 241-247. Larmer, Robert A. Wistleblowing and Employee Loyalty. ” Journal of Business Ethics Volume 11. 2 (1992): 125-128. Stieb, James A. “Clearing Up the Egoist Difficulty With Loyalty. ” Journal of Business Ethics (2006): 75-87. Varelius, Jukka. “Is Wistleblowing Compatible with Employee Loyalty? ” Journal of Business Ethics 85 (2009): 263-275. Bok, Sissela. “Whistleblowing and Professional Responsibility. ” T. L. Beauchamp, N. E. Bowie. Ethical Theory and Business. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, Inc. , 1983. 261-269.