The New Employee Loyalty — “Cautiously Optimistic”

perfect example of cautious optimismI had a cool discussion with two fascinating people on a flight out of San Jose, to Las Vegas on Friday night. On one side was a VP of Marketing for a mid-sized company, on the other side was a junior at a local college.

I was telling the VP of Marketing that I didn’t think I’d be able to have any loyalty towards any company I worked for… you know, after getting laid off it is very difficult to “trust” again. He said “sure you will have loyalty. But you’ll be cautiously optimistic.

I don’t mean to beat a dead horse about getting voted off the island where I worked, but experiences like that stay with you for a very long time. And I’m not alone (check out the amazing comments on my Depression Clouds Everything post).

But I’ve felt bad about perhaps not having the same enthusiasm, passion and dedication towards a future employer.

When this VP phrased it as “cautiously optimistic,” that really resonated with me. Now, with this new phrase, I can go back to an employer and give them all I have to give, do an excellent job, work for the common goals of the team or department, etc. I’ll put in the Jason Alba work ethic, for sure.

All with a new understanding of employee loyalty, which is the old way of saying “cautious optimism.”

8 thoughts on “The New Employee Loyalty — “Cautiously Optimistic””

  1. Hi Jason:

    That’s an inspired phrase – “cautiously optimistic” – it allows hope rather than cynicism.

    For savvy career activists who know that they cannot stop building their network and visibility while they are employed, I’d add some action to that optimism.

    How about “Cautiously optimistic. Change ready.”?

    Deb Dib
    The CEO Coach for visionary, gutsy, “capitalism with conscience” leaders.

  2. Deb captures exactly what needs to come after that idea of cautious optimism. The problem I have with the notion of loyalty to an organization is that it must be mutual or else we’re left with only distrust. So, loyalty is not so much a gift we give, but a mutual exchange that must be equal on both sides. If we just give our loyalty to an org and hope that it’s reciprocated, we’re practically begging for frustration. And of course and org that expects loyalty from its employees but then craps all over them is nothing more than a modern day fiefdom.

    What Deb adds with “change ready” puts the necessary condition in place for an employee to apply their passion, purpose, and uniqueness to an org that appreciates these gifts for what they are. And if the org doesn’t appreciate it, then it’s time to find an org that understands that feudalism went out of style centuries ago.

  3. Unfortunately, trust and loyalty has to go both ways. People often are hurt when they are laid off, but would not think twice about jumping ship as soon as an apparently better offer comes along. I have even had employees run competing firm while still employed by me. We can only expect as much loyalty as we give.

  4. Or: Cautious Skepticism.

    It doesn’t really matter what companies say, if the management team believes layoffs are needed, they will occur. It doesn’t matter individually. If you are in the way, you’re gone.

    The cautious skepticism comes with the people you are working with. As you work with people, you will see their work and their actions with you. With skepticism, you will learn who is about the work and who you can trust.

    I have a lot of loyalty to people and their work while little to none for companies. If a person shows loyalty to you, that’s worth quite a bit. Even if a manager has to lay you off for the company reasons, if they have demonstrated loyalty to you while working for them, they are worth keeping in your network.

    People-to-people is the loyalty currency of today, not company loyalty. Only people have loyalty that can go in both directions.

  5. Jason,

    Good evening. First of all, congratulations for your recent success in Silicon Valley.

    The phrases “cautious optimism” and “cautious skepticism” I think make sense. Somehow I find some analogy between working for a company and playing -let’s say- football: if you’re an active team player (even an all-american corporate or football player), whether you wear the company’s or team’s jersey or not, nothing “saves” you from being dismissed or at least changed to another team.

    As to the corporate world, it’s somehow unpleasant to conclude that wearing the company’s “jersey” is a false statement, therefore, as a job seeker, rather than wearing that “jersey” and offering “loyalty”, I’d offer a total commitment in terms of managing my career better: I should offer what I can control: willingness to continue learning, adding value and achieving results while doing the job I’m asked to do.

    Like Metallica’s James Hetsfield says: “…and nothing else matters”.

    Kind regards.

  6. WOW! Scot nailed it for me. I am a firm believer that loyalty is a transaction between people but the problem is that organizations are PEOPLE. Without the people all you have is an empty building. That’s where I have issues with the climate in organizations today. Organizations are NOT loyal to people. If my statements are true, than people are not loyal to people and I believe it is naive for an employee to believe that any organization will be loyal to employees.

    So my issue is with leaders. Leaders demand a lot from employees including loyalty, I believe it is a mistake to work with tunnel vision and think that organizations (leaders – people) will be there for you when things get tough in the organization.

    Cautiously optimistic? I am not sure about that “Cautious” about the organization – yes, “optimistic” about your potential, your skills and abilities and what you bring to the organization.

  7. I disagree that organizations are not per se loyal to people. Part of it depends on what you call loyalty. Some corporations let people go whenever it will save some money. Others will do everything reasonable to keep employees or to help them transition if layoffs become necessary.

    The same is also true for employees. Some will give an honest days work and do their best to help build the company. Others spend half their day surfing the net, only to complain if they are laid off. Others jump ship the minute they think they has a better job offer and do not provide reasonable notice so that the employer can get a replacement.

    While some organizations are not loyal, any good organization will do what it can to protect loyal employees. Over the years I have helped employees leave by giving them glowing recommendations, even though it hurt to have them leave. Good employees show loyalty and are more likely to get some in return.

    Showing loyalty does not mean having tunnel vision, but it means being fair. If you get a better offer – address it with your current employer. The company may match or beat the offer to keep you. Or they may wish you well. Either you get a raise, etc., or your leave on good terms. Additionally, you have built good will.

    A few months ago I made an overly generous offer to a potential employee. The potential employee tried to renegotiate the deal on terms that made it pretty clear that the employee was only worried about himself. Ironically, my employees suggested I recind the offer because it was clear that the potential employee would have no loyalty to the firm. I followed their advice.

    Recently the potential employee called one of the employees and asked what happened. The employee told him that we did not want people who would not be part of the team. My employees loyalties helped me avoid a bad hire and help themselves avoid someone who would not be a team player.

    What goes around comes around is true on both sides of the employment equation.

  8. Hi Jason,

    I posted this same comment on Deb Dib’s blog who posted about this post…

    In Tom Peters article on personal branding, he said that company loyalty is dead. He said that the only loyalty you should be worried about is loyalty to your team, your colleagues, your customers and most importantly yourself.

    I think perhaps making that shift is going to help people free themselves of that struggle or tension….since it doesn’t serve them to have that company loyalty anyway.

    And as someone said, it’s loyalty to people, not organizations that really matter….

    Ciao ciao!
    Expat Career and Entrepreneur Coach

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