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Do You Owe Your Employer Gratitude?

Are you loyal to your employer because you think you owe them gratitude?

This Christmas day, I want to remind everyone that loyalty in the workplace should be a reciprocal relationship. Unfortunately, more often than not, behind the curtain of pleasant corporate employee-relations PR is a pack of rabid dogs attacking each other for scraps.

In the days leading up to Christmas, AT&T notified hundreds of staff that they would lose their jobs. I presume more layoffs will be confirmed by AT&T in the weeks to come. At the same time AT&T announced it would provide special bonuses to 200,000 of its employees in celebration of the Republican tax overhaul. This is like adding sugar to a pile of shit to make it more palatable.

Over the past 6 months alone I've heard many horror stories of dedicated staff being destroyed after decades of commitment. I've seen friends fire friends - these are people who did all the right things to build trust and loyalty. In the end, it doesn't matter how many times you've had your boss and their spouse over for dinner, the corporate machine will find a way to chew up and spit out anything that interferes with the profit imperative.

Corporations are entities that are built to generate a return on capital. They have no other purpose. Charitable activity, community engagement and philanthropy are done by corporations because they improve the public persona, potentially driving the customer purchase decision and, more importantly, reducing the public pressure on regulators to clamp down on corporate malfeasance.

While the individuals within a corporation may have souls, the corporation itself does not. How can it be expected to care? A corporation is a legal structure defined by its articles of incorporation and investor expectations. 99.99% of investors risk their money to generate a return on that money. To generate a return, a corporation must generate and grow profits that can eventually be distributed back to investors. There's nothing wrong with this, but people need to realize they should stop expecting more from a legal structure.

One way or another, the corporate machine will force benevolent individuals to abandon their principles in the name of profits. Individuals that don't abandon their principles produce a lower return on investment (ROI) than those that do, and will therefore eventually be terminated (assuming they are discovered). Companies that can't weed out the weaker producing staff will eventually be running slower than competitors. Corporate death - whether by bankruptcy, liquidation or amalgamation - ensues.

So should an employee be loyal to something that cannot be loyal back, despite the best efforts of a few kind-hearted staff? Can you love someone that doesn't love you back?

Do a good job. Earn your paycheck. But recognize that the corporation by definition must extract more value from you than what it pays you in return. To do otherwise would be slow-suicide. In the end, you need to do what's right for you.