By Selnow, Gary W.; Gilbert, Richard R.
Workforce , Vol. 76, No. 10
Today's business climate presents more than a few challenges to your organization's ethical practices. Safeguarding your company is your job. Take a stand for business ethics.
The discussion participants have worked together for nearly 15 years, meeting first at NBC Television 's New York Citybased Division of Standards and Practices during Grant Tinker's distinguished tenure as chairman. This article is a free-wheeling conversation about what managers, HR and others can do to win employees' respect and trust, the preconditions of loyalty in a working environment. Listen in as these colleagues share ideas that you can use to prevent the kinds of ethical challenges that arise when leadership doesn't inspire loyalty.
Loyalty among employees is wearing thin. Several reports bear witness. In 1993, writer Ethan Winning conducted an informal study of employee satisfaction for his book "Labor Pains: Employer and Employee Rights and Obligations." Sixty-seven percent of the 121 employee respondents drawn from six industries reported that their sense of loyalty on the job decreased over a five-year period. Research in Britain by Sanders & Sidney, a London-based career management firm, shows similar results. Why? It could be that corporate leadership is undermining employee loyalty in a variety of ways.
There are serious ethical implications of this problem of shrinking loyalty. A disloyal workforce inspires employers to adopt ethically questionable practices. The American Management Association reported this year in a survey of 900 mid-sized and large member companies that 63 percent of companies are using surveillance or monitoring procedures that include listening in on phone calls, reading employees' e-mail and running spy cameras. What's more, one in four companies don't tell workers about the spying-and by law, they don't have to.
Employers' secret cameras, taping machines, e-mail audits and even undercover agents, violate the expectation of privacy that lies at the heart of American culture. Employers become instruments of coercive practices that Americans often associate with oppressive societies and despotic governments.
How have so many companies landed in this position? In part, through a misguided reaction to diminishing loyalty in the workplace. Surveillance treats the effect. To treat the cause, advocate that your company's managers lead the way in regaining employee loyalty.
Selnow: What did the most effective managers you've known do to generate team loyalty?
Gilbert: In my experience, the home base of loyalty is honesty. Nine out of 10 employees interviewed told researchers James Kouzes and Barry Posner that truthfulness was at the center of the trust they placed in leaders who not only must be honest but also must be seen being honest in their own habits. If they demand an honest expense account from employees, they must submit honest expense accounts themselves. If they want employees to respect company property-for instance, using computers only for company business-they must respect company property themselves. And people must see them doing this.
Selnow: Another value, near the top of the list, is holding a positive attitude even in tough times. A good manager is stalwart under pressure like a military commander who doesn't oscillate between the euphoria of victory and the bitterness of defeat. He or she stays the course with a positive attitude. Napoleon put it simply: "A leader is a dealer in hope."
Gilbert: A positive, hold-the-course sense carries people through bad times, and just as important, it keeps them from getting too cocky in good times. That's not easy to do on the job, or in life for that matter.
An additional activator of loyalty is providing your employees with encouragement and direction. I remember how much people wanted to please Grant Tinker at NBC. He had a way of inspiring them to do their best. People worked their hearts out simply to please him. …