I had an interesting discussion with a client the other day. It had to do with an executive on his team whose performance was lackluster and his behavior unacceptable. The executive had been given ample opportunity to change his leadership style and had chosen not to change. The conversation would have been fairly routine, except for two interesting points. The first point was that his company has a reputation for looking out for and taking care of its people. And the second point was that the executive in question has been with the company quite a while – well over a dozen years.
The discussion obviously revolved around how to handle the situation and still remain true to the company’s culture of looking out for loyal employees. I believe that loyalty should be rewarded. Callous actions against loyal people are never warranted. But in this case, the answer lies – in part – upon the answer to a more fundamental question: “Does longevity equate to loyalty?”
It does not. Clearly, longevity pertains to length if service with the company. But what is the definition of loyalty? According to the dictionary, loyalty means being faithful to commitments and obligations. Therefore, while the executive in question has a long tenure with the company, he was not loyal. Let me explain…
Every leader has an obligation to further the success of his or her organization, to develop others, to serve internal and external customers, and to act with integrity. In this particular case, the leader did the minimum necessary to keep his job, did not strive to bring out the best in his people, and did not look out for the best interests of his (internal) customers. He was not loyal.
Although my client felt the company should not terminate him (true to its culture), he also felt justified (rightly so) in removing him from his current position. Allowing him to remain in that role hampered the performance of the people on his team and slowed the success of the company.
Moving him into another role which leverages his skills and knowledge would better serve him, his team, and the company. Looking out for the greater good is as important as caring about a single individual, and leaving him in his current role would be a disservice to all involved.