Don’t Confuse Loyalty with Love

Often times you’ll hear a company owner or leader say of a non-performing, long-time employee, “He’s so loyal. I’m loyal to him, and he’s loyal to me. I’m not going to let him go after all these years.”

Yet, is it really loyalty when the teammate isn’t striving to perform in their current role?

Loyalty means the employee is doing the work he’s supposed to do. Loyal employees are faithful to the cause and committed to their role in helping the company achieve its goals. They’re dependable, honest, and they hold themselves accountable. Loyal employees do the right thing for the company because they love their leader, boss, founder, or the organization. And because they do all this they bring results in their performance.

What’s Love Got to Do With It?

Love, on the other hand, is really about the person. Founders and long-time leaders naturally develop a deep affection for their long-time employees with whom they’ve weathered the business’s highs and lows together since the early days. An employee can still love their leader and not perform, and the leader can and often does love their long-time, non-performing employee. That’s what makes addressing the performance issue so hard!

Leaders, don’t confuse love and loyalty. If the employee can no longer perform, we can continue to love him when he’s no longer with the company. What we can’t do is allow our love for a non-performer hinder our ability to make the tough call. Doing so will result in two equally-bad scenarios: the company stagnates because the leader can’t help the employee get to the next level and/or other teammates see that you can be a non-performer and get by with it. Over time the standard drops and a new (lower) level of success is established.

Like nearly all leadership characteristics, love and loyalty must be carefully balanced between the mutual love shared between a leader and his or her long-time employee with the reciprocal loyalty that comes with continuing to perform and advancing the organization forward.


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