What Does Loyalty Mean?

A woman I know worked at a place for over 25 years. She worked hard and did her job with loyalty and commitment. But things change, as they always do, and with a shortage of money and an abundance of corporate restructuring, she was forced to apply for a job she had been doing for nigh on ten years.

Open and shut case, right? A nameless, faceless person in the corporate office assured her she would have a position after all the dust settled. After all, she had done the job well for more than two decades. Her performance reviews were always stellar, “Yes indeed, thank you for another outstanding year. We value your contributions.”

But when the dust settled, the end result did not clear the air. Instead she was told to clear her desk. Told in one breath she did not get the job; told in the next that she did not have any job. Effective immediately.

And since the employer for whom she had worked so hard, for so long, did not trust her to leave with integrity nor respect her enough to let her depart with dignity, they had a security guard escort her from the building.

“Nothing personal of course. Just standard practice”.

I suppose it makes sense. After all, why not reward loyal employees with their very own honour guard as they leave the building? Perhaps stainless steel handcuffs would also be appropriate – a nice piece of jewelery; better than a pretentious 30 year pin that can only be worn on rare occasions, like voluntary retirement parties.

Even better, have a police cruiser there with lights flashing, to drive ex-employees home. What says “Thank you” better than a black and white limo with a man in uniform to take you away?

I’m frankly amazed that they allowed her to take her purse home. God forbid – she could have smuggled a paper clip, a ball point pen and some scotch tape out when she left.

Integrity, loyalty, respect and trust. Are these outdated traits? Are these not the characteristics that we value in people and organizations anymore? When it is standard practice to attribute insensitive, disrespectful action as “nothing personal” it denies the very humanity of what our work means to us.

Work is personal. Our jobs are personal; they are a part of who we are. To be walked out of a place where you have dedicated the majority of your career is nothing short of an insult. That solitary act denied this woman the opportunity to say her farewells and worse, denied her the grace of departing the organization mantled with its gratitude and respect.

Small things perhaps, but important. That should be standard practice.

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About Lady Boomer

A voice for lady boomers, Bette Hodgins is a writer, life enthusiast and navel-gazer. Unfortunately navel lint keeps cluttering up her path to enlightenment, but she is nothing if not persistent in her journey of life!
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6 Responses to What Does Loyalty Mean?

  1. Excellent post, Bette! This scenario happens all too often.

  2. Mary says:

    Lady Boomer,
    Thank you for this reminder of corporate paranoia. I’m sorry for your friend’s plight and wish only that a kinder, more dignified exit could have happened for her.

    It makes you wonder what kinds of revenge former stunned and angry employees visited on their hosts before escorted departures in days past. I suppose there could be horrendous electronic interference out of spite, but most people in her position try only to keep their chins from quivering with bewildering upset, or search their drawers for a kleenex box and failed lucky charm.

    And when they finally get home (after a wobbly, teary drive which is likely unfocused and unsafe) the employee begins to build up resentments, contacts loyal allies at the old workplace, builds a case against the company and wishes the person who replaced her a plague of locusts (or at least computer failure and a difficult transition).

    Where’s the goodwill, the thanks, the dignity, the team spirit, the appreciation, the passing the skills torch …?

    Your friends best revenge will be to rest for a while and get back out there at her next successful career change, which may hold better prospect.

    • Lady Boomer says:

      I have to confess that the person I wrote about yesterday is actually a “composite” of a number of people I have known over the years, who have worked in a number of places – but a recent replay of history triggered the writing ogre in me. As “they” say in the movie business, my post was “Inspired by true events”.

      Your phrase “corporate paranoia” is very apt and fear can make anyone, or any thing, do crazy things. Your balanced perspective on the origins of paranoia are a good reminder that somewhere, at some time, there may have been reason to take this type of unkind action.

      As for revenge – well, most of the people who share a piece of this composite have not chosen to look forward or backward with anger. After the tears, they have gone on to happier, more fulfilled lives where their talents and dedication are appreciated and truly rewarded.

  3. Linda says:

    It’s too bad we can’t all have those careers where we are truly rewarded and appreciated. A lucky few have found them, and many more of us just savour each small word of appreciation and “warm fuzzy”. I actually have a folder on my email and another “paper” folder where I keep these. On a really bad day (or week!) I can go back to them and realize that I am doing worthwhile work that touches someone else in a good way.

  4. are_n says:

    Nicely written….I’ve seen way to much of this in the last 10 years or so with no real sign of it abating.

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