Marlon and Jenna are colleagues, working in a professional services firm. You can cut the tension between Marlon and Jenna. What’s causing the tension? Loyalty. Or, to be precise, Marlon’s observable lack of loyalty and Jenna’s blind loyalty. Jenna has a personal value of Loyalty. “What’s the problem with that?”, you might ask. “Surely Loyalty is a good thing?”, you might ask. And yes, on a human level, Loyalty is a good thing. Since we survive by having each other’s backs, at a human level, most people expect some sort of loyalty. So what’s the problem?
Any strength overused becomes a weakness. For Jenna, she has a driving value of Loyalty, to the point that her need to uphold her personal value of Loyalty creates a blind spot. Jenna’s personal value can be more accurately described as Blind Loyalty. Why does it matter if Jenna ‘s personal value is Loyalty or Blind Loyalty? Isn’t it all good? For Jenna, it matters because her personal value is impacting on her ability to analyse and make decisions.
Jenna’s boss, Rich, is very talented but at times, can be a bit of a jerk, particularly to junior staff members and people from other functions. Jenna’s blind loyalty prevents her from pulling Rich up on his behaviour. When anyone comments on it, she defends him, even when he is clearly in the wrong. Unwittingly, Jenna is eroding her own reputation in her defense of Rich. She also won’t question any suggestions he makes. She accepts his ideas without any critical analysis and, of course, stoutly defends his ideas when others critique them.
Lack of Loyalty
Marlon, on the other hand, wouldn’t be able to spell Loyalty, let alone demonstrate it. Marlon rips into people, behind their backs, and is forever criticising others ideas. People come away from Marlon’s presence, wondering what he’ll be saying about them. People avoid Marlon, whenever they can. Marlon’s lack of demonstrable Loyalty has resulted in Marlon losing out on opportunities. People would rather have the new intern, who knows nothing, help them than ask Marlon.
You can see why Jenna and Marlon don’t get along. Not everyone has a personal value of Loyalty and not everyone has to have a personal value of Loyalty. However, understanding the Loyalty spectrum, and where you fall on it, is important to ensure you’re not unwittingly undermining yourself and your opportunities.
What to do with TOO Much Loyalty?
If, like Jenna, you suspect you demonstrate too much loyalty, consider the following:
- Monitor situations where your value of Loyalty is being tested and reflect on how you upheld it, your feelings and the outcomes.
- Take time and define your personal meaning of loyalty.
- Consider where the boundaries of your Loyalty definition are and reflect on if those boundaries are causing you trouble. For example, Jenna’s boundary was never questioning the judgement of a person she was loyal to, which at times, was undermining her own reputation.
- Talk to your closest friends and family and seek their insights into your observable behaviours and related outcomes.
- Consider if your current definition and boundaries are serving you well and whether you need to redefine the meaning.
- If you decide to re-define your personal value of Loyalty, take the time to re-define it and reflect on where the new boundaries are and how you will uphold them.
What to do with Too LITTLE Loyalty?
If you suspect that, like Marlon, perhaps you display too little loyalty and that maybe its damaging your opportunities, consider the following:
- When you’re about to talk negatively about someone or something, identify your emotions and thoughts and reflect on the connection between these and your urge to say something negative.
- Repeat the above step for a few days or a week and reflect on whether there is a pattern. For example, when you’re under stress or you’re feeling jealous, are you more likely to criticise others? If you identify a pattern, you might need to dig deeper into what is causing that pattern for you, so you can stop it. You may need to get help with this e.g., seek out the help of an executive coach.
- Identify a strategy for preventing yourself from saying negative things. For example, count to 5 before you say what pops into your head. During this time, ask yourself a powerful question, such as: “do I really want to say this?” or “does this reflect well on me?” or “how does this help me?”
- Differentiate between constructive criticism and negative criticism. Constructive criticism focuses on what is in the person’s control and identifies what can be done better. Negative criticism takes a scatter-gun approach to complaining. The difference sounds something like – “I was wondering if the title could be made to stand out more” v “that looks rubbish”.
- Research “Constructive Criticism” and take the time to phrase things in a constructive way.
- Buy yourself a copy of The Speed of Trust by Stephen R Covey and read it. While the book is about Trust, a lack of loyalty undermines trust.
The Goldilocks of Loyalty
Loyalty is a Goldilocks value – not too much, not too little, just the right amount of Loyalty. As humans, we definitely need to know that people have our backs but we also don’t want people so blindly loyal to us, that they won’t tell us the truth. It’s worth while reflecting on where your observable Loyalty behaviours fall on the Loyalty spectrum and whether it is too much, too little or just right.
Share your thoughts, on loyalty and times when you experienced too much or too little loyalty, in the Comments Box below. If you enjoyed the blog and found it useful, I’d be much obliged if you Like it or share it with your friends. Read about How Perfection May Be Hurting Your Career.
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