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Loyalty and co-operation are not optional

By Dr.  Steve M. Cohen

It might sound obvious, but being a key employee, especially a top-level manager, requires above all organizational loyalty. Yet, in many businesses, some employees are working at cross proposes with their organization.

Assume that Office A has an objective, probably something articulated in their mission and vision statement. This objective could be stated in a premise like the following: In order to be successful, we must all work together.

Using a metaphor might help. Everyone in the boat must be rowing, rowing hard and rowing together, in order for the organization and employees to be successful.

An employer or organization can tolerate an employee rowing slower than expected. An employer or organization can even tolerate an employee putting down his or her oar for a temporary or limited period of time. But, an employer or organization cannot tolerate an employee rowing in a different or contradictory direction. This is unacceptable for any level of employee. But in a supervisory or senior management level, it is also an ethical breach.

Employees at the hourly or elementary level are often paid primarily for their time. Supervisory or professional level employees are paid primarily for their judgment. The higher the position, the more that judgment is usually in play. And one of the worst examples involves cooperation with other top employees. For a senior level staff member to withhold cooperation from a fellow senior level employee is a judgment call and an ethical breach.

But professional level employees are human just like anyone else. They have their likes and dislikes, their biases, and their preferences relative to other people with whom they work. Within their department, they have the right to exercise these proclivities. They get to choose who they trust and with whom they “circle the wagons.” They don’t often get to do this with their peers. Selection choices are made a minimum of one level up and often two levels up. This usually means that we don’t get to choose our peers.

My contention is that professional staff members have an ethical responsibility and obligation to work for the benefit of their organization. This means working at a micro level and providing excellence with what is assigned and with other senior level leaders to ensure their success. To withhold assistance or to undermine fellow supervisors is to work at cross-purposes with the organization. And that is unethical.

Managers cannot legislate who someone likes or who they should invite for a backyard barbecue. But managers do have the right to expect and count on their leadership team “pulling” together. This is not optional. This is a necessity in a competitive work world.

Dr. Steve Cohen is Principal and Lead HR Consultant at HR Solutions: On Call, an advisory service for medical practices and other small businesses.

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