Retiring of a Hero
How to reward loyalty?
There is something baffling about the year-end. The holiday season syndrome manages to keep you incredibly busy, but with a “de-intensity” that doesn’t allow you to accomplish anything reasonable! I too had my share of singing, dancing, partying, and all good things in life that you work hard for. Perhaps, these indulgences explain my lethargy in getting back to productive activities like “blogging”. Of course, whether “blogging” falls in the productive category is an altogether different subject. But from web community’s perspective, the blogger does owe his loyal followers a continuous churn of content! Or does he? Does ‘loyalty’ deserve special privileges across all walks of professional life? For instance, who holds the trump card—an ‘average’ employee who dedicates several years of his life to his employer, or a ‘bright’ new employee who has just arrived in the organization?
The Twisting Tale of a Loyalist…
Amongst the first four employees that Cybage hired, the most modest personality was Vishal Adkar (withholding the real name for a reason). He had kind of gatecrashed into our campus recruitment being held at CDAC’s Pune campus. You see, Vishal didn’t belong to the passing out batch. He was a CDAC alumni who had not managed to land up with a job in spite of the booming IT job market! His financial position was very fragile, which explained why the CDAC coordinator intervened to allow him to appear for campus interviews. Two minutes with Vishal and it was clear why he was still jobless. He was too much of a simpleton, so much so that he wouldn’t speak at all —in any language! My dad prompted me to extend Vishal an offer… purely out of humanitarian consideration. And Vishal joined Cybage— two weeks prior to the other three employees; you see, someone had to help with cable, computer, furniture setup, etc.
Very quickly, Vishal became a key back-end programmer of Cyberage raider. His mild and cooperative demeanor made him reasonably popular amongst his teammates. Then when Cybage forayed into services business, there was a quick exodus of the original team to the land of opportunity. That is, everyone except Vishal! His personality made it difficult for him to get an overseas break. So he stayed a while longer and helped stabilize the first few contracts of Cybage before, eventually, his much awaited break to migrate to USA came through. Over the next few years, Vishal stayed in constant touch, a more confident professional who hadn’t forgotten his roots, his heartfelt gratitude and unflinching loyalty towards Cybage stayed intact!
Then, one day, he decided to migrate back to India. Cybage, of course, welcomed him back with open arms. The most ‘original’ loyalist coming back—what more could Cybage ask for? And thus began Vishal’s second stint with Cybage, this time as a mid-tier System Analyst.
And then something strange happened…a very unexpected story unfolded! Vishal’s performance was just not up to the mark. He still worked very hard and was fully committed, but not to the organization’s satisfaction vis-à-vis his peers. Pretty soon it became obvious—Vishal had not changed, but Cybage had moved on! With our growing brand and deeper pockets, we had managed to rope in brighter professionals than the original Cybage team, so the clear distinction stood out. We tried two project changes with Vishal, but the stark contrast persisted. As time rolled by, Vishal found himself at the receiving end of our appraisal system’s fairness prompting him to eventually bid adieu to Cybage—this time for good! Sad ending; Cybage did not even attempt to hold back one of its original crusaders!
So how much importance does the word “loyalty” holds for an organization? In a clinical sense, loyalty implies refined qualities such as a finer degree of “Commitment”, “Attitude” and “Org Alignment”. These qualities are parameters that are used to gauge a professional in every organization. No different than other key parameters such as “IQ”, “Technical”, “Communication”, and so on. So, if the raw ingredients that make up loyalty are already weaved into every organization’s appraisal DNA, what is the need to duplicate them by adding redundant parameters like “years of tenure” in the measurement environment? After all, isn’t over-bias towards ‘loyalty’ the same as relative penalizing of a ‘newcomer’ in the organization? Clearly, “a blind loyalty towards loyalty” can spell doom for an organization in the long run.
However when it comes to matters of heart, “turning a blind eye towards loyalty” has equally disastrous implications—for loyalists are the organization’s cultural touch bearers, and any cultural dilution is the beginning of any company’s collapse! The matter is further complicated by the current demand-supply mismatch in our industry where the clearly drawn battlefield sees equally formidable armies on both sides—loyalists versus job-hoppers! Both battalions have pros and cons in their arsenal. With Lord Krishna off on a timeless sabbatical, which side should the confused ARjUN pick?
“Pro” debate: What is more advantageous: Org alignment of a loyalist, or industry exposure of a job hopper?
“Con” debate: Which vice is worse: Complacency of a loyalist, or opportunism of a job hopper?
Perhaps the good old-fashioned opinion/comment poll by the learned audience can help arJun arrive at that elusive balance point?