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...
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.
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