The Blessing and The Curse of Loyalty

Loyalty. It’s one of those untouchable, selfless, highest-on-the-list-of-importance values that everyone strives for in any relationship. Whether it be in the workplace, with a spouse, or within our circles of friends – we often use the word “loyal” to describe those we hold most precious to us. We throw around the word “loyalty” as a measurement to determine who believes in us, our ideas and our causes enough to be “all in” during the good times, bad times and every time in between. Loyal people don’t waiver; they are not fair-weathered fans. They are constants, they are unquestionably reliable, they are our best teammates/partners…and even our best publicists.

Loyalty is rare, so we cherish it, nurture it and reward it when we find it. And sometimes we feel so lucky to find loyalty, that it blinds us to other realities.

Last week, this lesson played itself out loud and clear as I watched 20+ years of workplace relationships come to an end. A family-owned company that put loyalty on such a pedestal, that it came back to bite them in the tuchas in the end. They wanted, so badly, for their long-time employees (who were almost like family members after all of these years) to be successful, that they turned the other way when they should’ve been holding them accountable. But the truth was …that no matter how many chances they were given to up their game and prove themselves, these employees just weren’t meeting expectations. Despite all of the history and relationships they had developed after so many years together, the owners had no other choice than to sever ties with them. Even though from a business perspective, it made sense – it still hit home with me on a deeper level. Because we’ve all been there. We’ve all wanted to believe in people who believe in us. And we’ve all wanted to give them as many chances as possible to prove that they really are what we think they can be.

But today, I am reminded that loyalty, as we’ve known it, just isn’t enough anymore. We are living in a time where people are forced to make tougher decisions than ever before – in order for companies to survive, and for people to thrive in a healthy, productive way. We’ve all stayed in situations and relationships longer than we should’ve because we want to honor loyalty. While it can be legitimately sad to watch these relationships come to an end, maybe I’ve come to realize that a true component of loyalty actually IS accountability, after all. Because when it’s all said and done – what you do is just as important as what you are.

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