Loyalty in Business: A Paradox by Definition

I will persevere in my course of loyalty, though the conflict be sore between that and my blood.  William ShakespeareKing Lear ACT III. Scene V. 

At 42, I have been privileged to have made amazing friends in my life.  These are genuine people who actually care about my wellbeing.  I feel an intense obligation to demonstrate lifelong reciprocity with these individuals, because they have supported me through good times and bad.  These relationships are earned and refined over time.

Unfortunately, transferring these attributes into corporate life is unrealistic, and might ultimately be disappointing.  As a manager of people, you have an obligation to help them optimize their performance in order to attain company objectives.  You develop a devotion to your team when they work ungodly hours and exceed expectations.  A manager admires an unbridled work ethic, determined focus and an enduring commitment to the cause.  A manager returns the excellence of their team by ensuring that these individuals attain their personal goals, whether it is money, power or title.  As these associations evolve, it becomes difficult to separate the various emotions associated with friendship inside a business structure. 

Dan Gilbert, the now infamous Cleveland Cavaliers owner, obviously found it difficult to separate his passion to win an NBA championship for the state of Ohio, with the reality of NBA free agency.  By leaving for the bright lights of South Beach, LeBron James betrayed the city that had embraced him since his youth.  That being said, the love that the Cavaliers fans had for LeBron was not shared by the player (despite his pre-game chalk-tossing ritual).  LeBron views the NBA as a business – he wants the best chance to make millions while rewriting the league’s record books.  While I find his leaving Cleveland cowardly, the only loyalty he had to demonstrate was to the LeBron James’ family.

The phrase “it’s only business”, is an appropriate summarization of how one should view relationships developed inside a corporate environment.  Business associates should expect honesty, respect and ethical treatment of one another.  Anything further should be embraced, as fidelity is a rare trait today.

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