Loyalty is regarded as one of the best qualities a worker can have. But a recent study has cast doubts on this belief. According to a study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, being loyal to your company can actually be detrimental for you. Wondering why? Well, according to the research, loyalty can be a double-edged sword for workers as managers may exploit their commitment and talent more. Now many of you might be thinking back on your own devotion to your workplace. Read on to find out more about the research.
Matthew Stanley, a postdoctoral researcher at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and the lead scholar on the paper believes that firms want loyal workers since a lot of research indicates that such employees provide all sorts of benefits to their companies. But these workers are exploited more by them.
“Loyal workers tend to get picked out for exploitation. And then when they do something that’s exploitative, they end up getting a boost in their reputation as a loyal worker, making them more likely to get picked out in the future,” Stanley said.
Stanley and his team recruited about 1,400 managers online and gave them information about a fictional 29-year-old employee called John, as part of their research. The team explained that John’s company was on a tight budget, and had to limit their expenses. As part of this, the managers had to decide how willing they would be to task John with extra hours and responsibilities, without any extra incentives.
Branding John as a loyal employee made the managers more willing to task him with unpaid labour. As part of the research, a separate group of managers were made to read recommendation letters about John. Supporting the initial findings, managers were more likely to recruit John for unpaid work if he was described as “loyal” rather than “honest” or “fair”.
The study showed that managers had a tendency to exploit John more if he was branded as loyal. Stanley and his team found that more workload was seen as a consequence of loyalty as managers expected the workers to make personal sacrifices for their organisation.
According to Stanley, the exploitation is not “all malicious” and “may be in part just due to ignorance” or “ethical blindness, where people don’t see how what they’re doing is inconsistent with whatever principles or values they tend to profess.”
The researcher and his team had no obvious solutions about the dilemma faced by workers. “I don’t want to suggest that the takeaway of the paper is to not be loyal to anybody because it just leads to disaster,” Stanley stated. “We value people who are loyal. We think about them in positive terms. They get awarded often. It’s not just the negative side. It’s really tricky and complex,” the researcher added.
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