Monday, June 30, 2014


There was an interesting post on LinkedIn late last week, entitled: "In a Free Agent Culture, Only Chumps are Loyal." It's an interesting analysis of the concept of loyalty as it pertains to the legal profession, and how it's been in decline over the past several years. The comments were interesting, most of them placing the blame squarely at the feet of businesses, who are accused of ruining what had been a good thing for everyone.

I think, because we tend to elevate Loyalty to the point of being a lofty virtue, we forget two of its characteristics.

  1. Loyalty has costs.
  2. Loyalty entails risks.
In an environment that is increasingly about driving both costs and risks to their lowest (immediately) profitable levels, it is no wonder that loyalty is on the decline. While it's also very true that loyalty also has both benefits and opportunities, it's worth keeping in mind that it's rare to have a detailed cost/benefit and risk/opportunity analysis show a perfectly even distribution.

Contrary to what we are often told as children, virtue is not its own reward. The fact that an action is virtuous does not automatically bring benefits and opportunities along with it, especially if you're operating on a relatively short time horizon. And most of us are not invested in having that come about. While we make choices about which people and institutions we want to do business with based on their perceived loyalty to ourselves, we rarely, if ever, evaluate based on how loyal we think that they are to others. We tend to be okay with the other guy being screwed over, as long as the savings are passed along to us. Businesses and individuals alike understand this.

Loyalty, rather than an aspiration, is seen as an investment. Right now, the perceived return on that investment is seen as slight to negative. Until that perception changes, loyalty is unlikely to be a widespread priority.

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