“I’ll take 50% efficiency to get 100% loyalty.” – Samuel Goldwyn
I am a big believer in firing weak employees and replacing them with strong performers — and yet, I never fired anyone who was loyal to me, even if he was underperforming, making mistakes, or even goofing off. I will criticize a loyal employee if I feel he needs to be criticized. I may even cut his pay. But I won’t fire him. So long as he continues to show up and work, to make an effort and to stick by me, I can’t find it in my heart to let him go.
This, I recognize, is an anachronistic view in today’s world, where taking care of No. 1 is the foundation of modern ethics. At a time when entertainment corporations fire their senior executives the moment ratings go down, professional team owners trade their players as soon as their performance falters, and older, experienced actors get passed over for the hot new face in the tabloids, loyalty seems a silly expense.
But I don’t see it that way. To me, loyalty is the foundation of all good, long-term business relationships. Work hard, don’t steal, and support my ambition. In return, I’ll pay you fairly, take care of you when you get in trouble, and keep you employed even when you’ve passed your prime.
Not everyone I work with shares my devotion to loyalty. Some are with me for only as long as it takes to get what they want. This is usually more obvious than they think. It is apparent not in the way they treat me but in the way they treat those from whom they have nothing to gain. When I see someone act ruthlessly to an employee or colleague, I make a mental note. If this person is willing to treat “Harry” that way just because “Harry” is weak and powerless, what will stop him from treating me just as badly some day?
I make positive mental notes as well. When I see how well one of my colleagues treats those who depend on him, how he sacrifices for them when they are not there, how he feels good about them when they succeed, how he supports his mentors even when there are questions about how well they supported him, I think, “This is someone I can trust.” In times of good and plenty, it’s easy to trust. When times get tough and provisions are scarce, the multitude who supported you will thin out very quickly. But I don’t have to worry about that with this man. He’s got my back and I have his.