bola raat hi raat hai
Mantri bola raat hi raat hai
Court bola raat hi raat hai
Yeh subah subah ki baat hai…."
a prisoner in Tihar Jail, as read out to the press by Arundhati
Roy, 7th March 2002)
the minister differed with the King, would he be considered
loyal? Whose affirmation is important to be declared loyal
- the King, the family, ones own conscience, the calling
one belongs to?
the King demands blind obedience and laces it with sufficient
threat, he can be Nero whose fiddling cannot be disturbed.
His nudeness will be described as new clothes and stupidity
as lateral thinking. If the minister is also able to fill
his coffers in the crazy kingdom, the contract is triply
sealed - with Kings expectation, fear, and greed. We
had experienced the committed bureaucracy and judiciary
during the days of "controlled democracy", when bosses were
never wrong, trains ran on time and trade unions became
lamb, even if public cried foul and a few people had to
unwittingly undergo nasbandi.
the corporation too, loyalty, which often gets mirrored
in the "performance ratings", may be defined and managed
in two main ways. I call these two constructs, the conventional
and the emerging, as Type A (the archaic) and Type B (the
A, the archaic believes in "tightly run ship", where
managers expect blind loyalty from the employee. The nature
of this loyalty is mostly personal though it often is camouflaged
in a language to suggest that whatever is good for the boss,
is good for the "company". Such an employee often will not
be a member of the union or if he is, he will keep the boss
"informed" loyally while staying away from the activists.
employee will not flinch from lying a wee bit or covering
up for the sake of the boss - in the expectation
of a reward or to fend off a potential threat of transfer
and a poor appraisal. In the worst of the cases, he may
help filch through complicity and yet explain away
as some form of loyalty.
such loyal employees will do all for the bosses keeping
the share-holders/owners in the dark - they intentionally
or unintentionally attract greater risk for the owners.
Thus, we find embarrassed managers and owners often hauled
up in the courts for fudging accounts, under-invoicing,
over-invoicing, product liabilities, gas tragedies, FERA
violations, environmental incursions, illegal transactions,
money laundering etc.
this construct, the loyal employee is not expected to have
any conscience or principles of his own. Even if he did,
he better know how costly conscience is and quickly fall
in line. To give comfort to the troubled minds of the few
thinking professionals, there are always confusing anecdotes
to suggest that loyalty to the boss and the company is
as virtuous as fighting for the nation. I know a very
successful company, that makes global standard intimate
wear for women, using company produced visuals, songs, stories
replete with symbols of the soldier, army and the enemy,
often laced with folklore of the "Tigers" and "suicide squads".
The language used in marketing, thanks to Sun Tzu
et al, is also replete with the syndrome of war against
the competitor - and that all is fair in war, if not love.
extol the virtues of such "Casabianca" who would rather
get drowned along with the burning deck than desert it.
The managers would not want to answer why the ship had to
be drowning in the first place! Why all these men had to
be rowing haaaard and in perfect unison, even as
the ship was being steered speedily, into an iceberg. We
have legions of "loyal" employees of this variety in
every corporate disaster - Enron included.
the system were to perpetuate cronyism, sycophancy and ego-massage
to bosses, it actually nurtures disloyalty. A narrowly
defined loyalty, in reality, is disloyalty - the minister
and the court in the above poem were actually disloyal.
It is not merely the foolish kings and the mostly dense
brown sahibs of the corporate world who interpret
loyalty in such a narrow sense - they are in good company.
Thugs, gangsters, underworld dons also need loyalty
of the Type A variety. It is oxygen to their actions.
For Gabbar Singhs, loyalty is unswerving common pursuit
of gang-interest against several odds and the mortal fear
of discovery. That is why a member of the Sicilian clan
cannot walk out - loyalty and life are often, a package.
loyalty arising from fear or greed, loyalty at all? And,
relatedly if some person acted against the system by being
loyal to ones own principles and for the larger benefit
of the society would that be less honorable and virtuous?
the answer is "yes", then Mahatma Gandhi should be devoid
of any virtue of loyalty. The entire government machinery
supporting the British rule should be more virtuous than
he. The Nazis who massacred the Jews should be honored as
loyal soldiers of the Fuhrer bringing honour to the fatherland.
Mother Theresa should be indicted for deserting her motherland.
So also Sister Niveditas. Vibhishana should have been declared
loyal hero for the winner group is the traitor for the loser!
The referee then cannot be one group or the other. It has
to be something else. Is this something else the inner
conscience, the professional principles of the calling and
the broad principles of welfare?
loyalty of Enron executives to their Vice Presidents and
Kenneth Lay was virtuous from the point of view of the beneficiaries
of that loyalty. Yet it was different from the loyalty exhibited
by the executives of Johnson and Johnson during the Tylenol
crisis in the 80s. The latter met the ethical standards
of every profession involved and the expectations of human
welfare apart from making the executives proud.
concept of loyalty and its use and misuse in the corporates
has their roots obviously in culture and politics. The Japanese
corporations, for example, can trace it to their society,
which had borrowed the concept of loyalty through Confucianism
of the Chinese. In the orthodox Confucianism, benevolence
and filial piety were important and considered virtuous
in social relationships. Loyalty was also a virtue as
long as one is loyal to oneself and ones belief rather than
to a particular "political" source of authority. Blind obedience
was not considered as virtuous.
was intended to be tempered by the virtues of justice
or righteousness. When Japanese adopted it, there has
been a discernable reinterpretation noticed particularly
with the internal injunction to their armed forces in 1882.
It is reported that during this reinterpretation, loyalty
was elevated to the first rank and dropping the virtue
of benevolence altogether. Some believe that Maoism
has similarly altered the Confucian concept of loyalty,
making it uni-dimensional, unswerving and blind. Lee Kuan
Kew of Singapore did in the 90`s what the Japanese did at
the turn of the last century, fortunately to a good effect,
folklores of Hara-kiri and the associated blind loyalty
have been carried into the Japanese corporation and adored
for long - they became symbols for lifetime employment,
attention to seniority and family situations, and "commitment".
The simple belief was that if employees were loyal, the
corporation would prosper and all can have a free ride to
prosperity for generations. The assumption was shattered
during the last decade with problems of competition, downsizing,
and out sourcing when even the workaholic, loyal, third
generation employees had to be shown the door.
type of loyalty served well when the corporation was
well protected and survived on the basis of a gangster like
approach to manipulating the system - at least, so long
as it lasted. Three developments seem to be working against
this type of loyalty: (a) true competition supported by
transparency and free markets whereby the scope for ganging
up and "rent-seeking" is narrowing; (b) crumbling of social
distances amongst employees due to increasing proportion
of knowledge workers, flatter structures and some degree
of egalitarianism; and (c) the shifts from scalar chains
and chains of command to self-managed teams and group accountability.
old type of loyalty appears to need a burial. Is there a
new type that will live long?
B, the Benign, is apparent in the case of new age companies
such as the software. In several of these, employees have
an evidently strong relationship with the company. They
are proud of their company, their team, their job, their
contribution and their profession. Yet, they may not serve
beyond an average of five to seven years in that company.
On the other hand, some companies, like Infosys or Wipro,
may not look down upon employees who want to become entrepreneurial
- they may actually continue their relationship and strengthen
it as a supplier or as a business partner.
The new type of loyalty is not blind and unconditional -
it is conditional to ones professional ethics, ones principles
and common good. Such a loyalty does not arise from
fear of the boss, or for self preservation and hopefully
not from the desire to gang up to exploit the system. It
arises from a host of strong conditions such as ones own
principles, ethics and justice. It expects that employees
will be true to their professions - that chartered accountants
will abide by their standards; that surgeons will be loyal
to their profession than to those employing them.
new type of loyalty is best evident from the books of Frederick
Reicheld (Loyalty Effect, 1996 and Loyalty Rules, 2001,
Harvard Business Press). These as well as several new
writings have been equating employee loyalty with that of
building customer loyalty. The onus is on the company to
prove as to why it deserves loyalty and commitment from
employees. The premise is that loyalty/commitment is
a two-way traffic and is sealed with trust and fidelity.
That a company will establish a relationship with the employee
by convergence of principles, values and mutuality of
interests, to get the best out of them. Employee feedback
surveys help companies determine the quotients of commitment,
and importantly, how they can improve the conditions to
enhance employee loyalty and commitment.
are no exit barriers. No threats. No rewards and punishments
for loyalty to the boss and no free riders into the unknown.
In the new type of loyalty, each individual will have
an obligation to his own values, profession, and contractual
duties and to his team/group. He will be as trustworthy
as the company is to its employees and customers. Stock
plans thrive and reinforce loyalty effects in such an atmosphere.
reflecting the new interpretations, a Police Department
(City of Clearlake, North Carolina, USA) has listed Loyalty
below Professionalism in its value statement and reiterates
the mutuality of obligations. It reads:
Loyalty to employees as well as employees` loyalty to the
organization is important, as is positional and personal
loyalty. A commitment to provide honorable service to City
government and community is expected of all. We recognize
that personal loyalty is based on trust and organizational
loyalty is based on professionalism."