Loyalty vs. Success

LoyaltySitting on the San Francisco shuttle train as it bore me to the car rental center on Wednesday morning I unobtrusively eavesdropped on a conversation between two men of Asian descent, young, suited, talking about marketing and amalgamates and other things that are far beyond my interest or understanding.  My interest was piqued, however, as they began to discuss the issue of loyalty in relation to success and the relative merits of the two.

“Loyalty is meaningless unless it means that you can build wealth.  Just because I’ve been with the company for 5 or 7 or 10 years or more doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t leave in a heartbeat if I thought I could be more successful and build greater wealth by working for someone else.”

His friend responded by saying, “I”m not so sure, I think that employee loyalty is an essential element in creating a workforce that will enable the company to be successful and therefore provide opportunity for building wealth?”

“Not necessarily.  Besides, I can’t wait for that to happen.  I feel I need to use any opportunity to advance toward my goals and won’t feel badly about making any career changes that present themselves, when they come along in order to do that.”

I was raised with a different philosophy and it reflected in the way I bristled inwardly at this conversation.  I have long thought, and consistently maintained, that loyalty is a desirable character quality whether you are talking about friends, employers, family members, service providers, churches … in other words, in just about every relationship one might have.  I understand there may be circumstances which require a “change” but it gets increasingly difficult, and nigh impossible, to accomplish anything meaningful if you cannot rely on those with whom you work to be there when you need them as you seek to move ahead.

Everyone wants to be successful.  Success, however, cannot be achieved  on the fickle-minded vagaries of those who are here today and gone tomorrow … just because they catch the whiff of some new scent of something that appeals to their selfish sense of loyalty … to themselves.

I wonder how that young man regards the importance of employer loyalty.  I suspect he may someday find out just how important THAT is!