Loyalty in companies – Part 2
How to create a loyal corporate culture
It’s not always the big crises and media-effective bankruptcies that destroy trust in companies, in their management and in leaders. Much more often, it is the countless individual cases that dramatically reduce employees’ trust in leadership quality.
One rash action, one thoughtless remark or one impulsive post on social media – and the trust is gone. This makes it all the more important for corporate thinkers and leaders to show their trustworthiness proactively time and again. For example, by clearly and openly stating that they can be trusted. At the same time, they should also demand open, non-anonymous communication from their employees. It is important to bring everyone along! A culture of trust does not work if only individuals live it.
Reasons for loyalty deficits in companies
There are a number of reasons for loyalty deficits in companies. Typical reasons are, for example:
- Employees repeatedly experience that changes are made unilaterally to their detriment.
- They get the feeling that management is indifferent to their fate.
- Employees get the impression that they are being deliberately given inadequate or even false information.
- They have to recognise that their years of commitment do not count for anything in times of crisis or when it comes to strategic corporate decisions.
- When it comes to important decisions, management tends to rely on the expert knowledge of external consultants rather than on the experience, insider knowledge and customer contacts of its own staff.
- Managers at the upper levels of the hierarchy care more about their personal benefits than about the continuity of the company and the preservation of jobs.
- Unfounded unequal treatment.
- Lack of equal opportunities in pay and promotion.
- Overly complex decision-making processes.
- Too many controls at work or on work processes.
- Contradictory and misunderstood messages.
- Derogatory comments about staff.
- When employees are unjustly mistrusted.
- Personal insecurities of decision-makers that affect their leadership.
- Communication breakdowns such as promulgating different information to different staff.
- Unpredictability of leaders.
- Questioning of staff competencies.
- Failure to give recognition and praise.
- Use of information as manipulation (punishment).
- Unfair pay and lack of transparency about pay/salary differentials.
Psychology attributes to people the tendency to give more weight to negative things than to positive things. For fear of failure, we don’t even try some things. But only when we overcome this fear can we build confidence.
With every small hurdle we overcome in life, fear dissipates and confidence grows – in our skills and abilities and in ourselves, regardless of what we are capable of achieving. Once we have built confidence, we can relinquish control.
Thomas notes that the number of custom orders has doubled in the last three years. Since each of these orders requires an individual approach in the planning and production process, the usual process flows in the company are hindered and interrupted with increasing frequency. This leads to a tense atmosphere in which the departments increasingly act against each other instead of with each other. Due to the many complaints from the employees, Thomas has decided to make the decisions himself again as to who produces what when and in what quantity – in the hope of keeping the working atmosphere under control in this way. But the opposite happens: The employees feel robbed of their room for manoeuvre and withdraw. The commitment that Thomas is otherwise used to from them fails to materialise.
Unfavourable behaviour: Micromanagement, one-sided guidelines, lack of involvement.
More promising behaviour: Involve employees and develop new process paths together.
Control and trust
Without a minimum of control, many people cannot build up trust at all, because trust is perceived as subjective security, thanks to which one can relinquish and transfer control. Even if the willingness to trust varies greatly from person to person, there are sensible measures that can be taken to build up and expand the resource of trust:
Trust is mutual. Therefore, at the beginning of a working relationship, it is important to ask yourself the questions: What do I understand by trust? What expectations do I have of a trusting working relationship?
Go ahead and do the work
Since a leadership position is also a position of power, the best way to build a trusting working relationship is to make an advance effort. This also makes the leader a role model.
The predefined framework in companies sometimes makes open communication difficult. That’s why managers should take the opportunity to communicate spontaneously with employees – simply from person to person.
Always behave fairly
Managers make mistakes too, they are human beings. Then it is important to own up to them. For example, fair assessments and decisions based on known criteria and the consistent keeping of one’s own promises are perceived as fair.
The lived culture forms the foundation for loyalty
Especially when it comes to people management, it is important to create a stable foundation that makes it easier for the manager to fulfil his or her primary task: to increase the job satisfaction and performance of the employees or to keep it at a high level. The question arises as to how successful, loyal leadership is feasible and measurable: on the one hand, leadership is expressed in concrete behavior that can be observed, described and thus measured. And there are variables that show whether a leadership style is better, worse or equally good as another leadership approach. Besides
- employee satisfaction,
- employee turnover,
- error rates,
- the degree of independent commitment,
the loyalty to the company, to the team and to the manager are, of course, among the important indicators of successful leadership. If a leadership style has a positive effect on one or more of these factors without simultaneously reducing other factors, it is therefore successful and better than previous leadership approaches.
However, I do not join the originators of supposedly simple and universally valid leadership recipes. And this in your sense: I will not spread a well-sounding but false recipe. Instead, I explore, question, gather evidence, sometimes draw clear conclusions and differentiate everything in the larger context. I work with people, find out their degree of willingness to cooperate and thus measure their attitude towards solution-oriented and loyal behavior.
Leading a group of people means leading different individuals, coaching them and taking into account their value systems, cultural backgrounds, needs, their current condition and situation. Of course, the organisation itself, the company’s goals and other parameters must also be taken into account. This approach is called “situational leadership”. I think this approach is right and important, not to set high demands and challenges for the leaders, but to develop the basic ability to lead as a personality with attitude, independent of professional competences. In combination with a loyal leadership attitude, the goal is for employees to recognise, develop and contribute their own potential and strengths at their workplace. In order to achieve this, an environment is essential that allows this potential to unfold and includes leaders who have understood that their lived leadership behaviour is decisive for the entire work culture in their area. Leadership therefore always creates the foundation of a “corporate pyramid”, not its top.
I believe that basically all people have a good core. In the training and personnel development measures on loyal leadership, a few basic assumptions from neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) are included for the fundamental human image:
- Every human being acts out of a positive intention.
- Every person has all social skills available to them as resources.
- There are no mistakes, only feedback.
- The reaction is the testimony of communication.
- The most flexible element controls the system.
We are all born with a bouquet of social attributes. Through upbringing, imprinting and our experiences, we have learned what is desirable and what fails in our environment. In this way, we have trained ourselves to behave in certain ways, with the aim of getting through life well. Even today, we use these trained behaviours every day, often unnoticed because unconsciously. It is only through regular reflection that we become aware of the many “gifts” we have accumulated in the course of life, which today we may critically question whether they serve us, fit our goals and our path in life.
This was part 2 of the three-part series on “Loyalty in companies”. Part 1 was about different forms of loyalty and their importance for companies in topics such as leadership or communication. Part 3 is about the willingness to change through loyalty.
Here you can find the other parts of the series and another article by Miriam Engel:
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Miriam Engel is a communications specialist, leadership trainer and certified human resources developer. Her work focuses on team and cultural development as well as employee communication. With the management consultancy loyalworks®, she advises and supports companies that want to retain their employees in the long term and recruit suitable candidates for corporate growth. The expert for loyal leadership and cooperation also offers leadership programmes with IHK certification.
@Photo: Oliver Hehr