The Fragile Nature of Loyalty

New graduates have so many things to learn about the work world when they leave college that it can seem overwhelming at times. Thankfully, there are small opportunities along the way to hone the skills most needed to build a successful career, and enough room in years and different employers to make some mistakes along the way and recover from them. Many of the most important skills, however were probably encountered long before college and if they were paying attention, they already know their extraordinary value.

Loyalty, and its importance across a career, is one of these skills.

Often skipped over in the rush to teach networking, lifelong-learning and other professional skills; loyalty possesses great strength for good in ways that may be overlooked until it is too late. When respected and understood for its power, the appropriate application of loyalty can lay the foundation and open doors to advancement with more ease than expected. It can be the “golden touch” of favor on a career that needs a boost, or an employee who needs a break. Loyalty can even be an unspoken and perhaps unconscious factor that counterbalances less experience, lower-levels of educational achievement and other factors when considering someone for new roles or key duties.

But for all its power and might, loyalty is fragile. Once loyalty is breached, no matter how much effort is put into the repair process, it never fully regains its former power.

Loyalty breaches are always public, even if they built up behind closed doors in hushed tones. Every person’s loyalty alignment is visible to others, expressed in patterns of behavior (who hangs out together for more than business conversations), body language and verbal patterns (word usage) used around different people. And when the temperature in the room, section, department or organization shifts; no one will have to ask “What happened?” They already know because they watched it unfold.

The person on the receiving end of the loyalty breach will certainly think twice about the disloyal person, and be less quick to trust people they don’t know well, but the greatest damage is the self-inflicted damage of the disloyal person. There’s no mad like being mad at yourself, and the person at the instigating end of a loyalty breach has to carry that around for the rest of their life. Some people are capable of doing the hard inner work associated with rising above, while others will descend into victimhood and blaming. Either way there’s a long road ahead.

Everyone has experienced a loyalty breach at some point in life whether on the playgrounds of elementary school, in the dorm rooms of college or in the workplace. The lessons are universal and best-learned as early as possible where there is the opportunity to self-correct, redirect, recover and recognize how and why it happened in the first place.

College graduation is fast-approaching in the traditional sector of higher education. Students preparing to leave the hallowed halls of academia for the rough and tumble of the adult work world can add a powerful soft skill to their resume by taking some time to think about the role of loyalty in their lives so far. Specifically, how have they experienced loyalty from others, how have they demonstrated loyalty and what changes do they need to make so they can cultivate it as a professional asset across their careers.

The practice of well-placed loyalty can be like the wind beneath one’s wings.


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