Back in the Dark Ages, when I was a young guy climbing the ladder, one of those dream job offers came along out of nowhere – actually I was in Portland, Ore., fishing for freelance writing gigs. Somebody had told somebody about me who told somebody else and – oh well, you know.
Anyway, they must have thought I was somebody special because the company sent not one, not two, but three big shots from out of town to buy me lunch at a nice seafood place in Portland. I was really flattered. This was a company with forty thousand employees and several billion a year in sales.
What struck me most about this interview was the extraordinary attitude these people had toward “their” company. One could almost call it affection “Do well here and you have a job for life,” said one, “This company is known for loyalty to its employees.” I was impressed. By midway through the meal we agreed to terms and I would remain with that company for many years to come.
True loyalty is something that has to be earned. A company earns the loyalty of its employees. A business earns the loyalty of its customers. A team earns the loyalty of its fans. That’s what I was taught and that’s what I firmly believed. But, that’s changed now. Loyalty is no longer earned as it once was – now we buy it!
It had been coming for a long time but it took a punch in the gut to get my attention. It was the mid-nineties when, after fifty years playing in Los Angeles, the Rams sold out to St. Louis and deserted millions of loyal, lifelong, fans – including me. That took the wind out of me. I’m no longer interested in professional sports because it’s clear that neither the teams nor the players care where they play or for whom. It’s all about the money and the fans be damned.
And, how about college ball? As a USC alum I’m mostly interested in the PAC 12 and Mountain West Conferences. Want to talk about loyalty? Do Pete Carroll and Chris Petersen come to mind? Both pledged unwavering allegiance to their schools and then jumped ship. Money? You make the call.
The same goes for business relationships. We have banking and other ties that go back many years. They were personal relationships. That’s how business was done. Those very same banks, insurance companies and others – to whom we were so loyal – no longer think of us as people. We’re numbers on a balance sheet. Numbers with dollar signs attached. It’s all about the bottom line and the customer be damned.
There’s a TV news personality we were just getting to know and like. Her contract is up for renewal. She was paid $15 million this year – $15 million! We just learned she’s demanding $20 million next year or she takes her marbles elsewhere. Has she considered that she wouldn’t be where she is without her present employer? Where’s the loyalty? So long sister and lots-a-luck. Our respect for you just went up in smoke.
As for us everyday working stiffs – I don’t see much loyalty either way anymore. People change jobs now more often than they change socks. I had six jobs in my entire career, including a couple of those make-enough-to-get-through-school type jobs like pushing stuff around in a warehouse with a forklift. My last job spanned thirty-five years. That’s loyalty. My dad was a career army officer – forty years. That’s loyalty.
A few years back an overwrought young father made an impassioned plea to the Mariners baseball club with a letter to a Seattle newspaper. Ticket prices had gone up – again. This is a story which today would go largely ignored. In its own time it made headlines on sports pages across the nation.
The letter explained that his young son was heartbroken because he and his dad couldn’t go to the Mariners games anymore. By the time they parked the car, paid for tickets and had a hot dog and a soda, it came to a hundred dollars, he said, and they just couldn’t handle that. Do multimillion dollar player contracts come to mind?
It’s all about the money anymore, and the kids be damned. What happened to loyalty?