Today I read a two frame comic that was at once slightly humourous and somewhat sad.

A small herd made up of two deer and a moose say to an another moose: “Brian, the herd has discussed it and because you are sick, we’re cutting you from the herd and leaving you to the wolves.”  Brian’s response: “C’mon guys, it’s just the sniffles”.

I’m sure I wouldn’t have given it a second thought except that this week, I heard stories of two friends being thrown to the wolves by their employers.

In the first situation, my friend has been with the same company for more than 25 years. During his tenure, he has taken no more than the average couple of days here and there because of sickness.  Last week he had surgery and the doctor (remember this salient point for later) told him he would be off work 4-6 weeks.  During his first week off (salient point number 2), he received four, yes four, calls from his employer asking when he would be back on “modified” duties.  In response to the reminder that his doctor had said 4-6 weeks, he was told: “Well, Bob had the same surgery and was back in two weeks”!  Apparently administrators with no medical qualifications are now deemed competent to override an MD’s instructions.  And apparently 25 years of loyal service means nothing.

In the second situation, my friend had been working, as a temp worker,  for her employer for five months.  After being felled by the devastating flu that everyone in this city either has or is recovering from, she was away from work for a week.  Every day she called in and every day she was told by her manager to take it easy and get well.  On the very day she advised her boss she would be back the next day, she got a call from the employment agency telling her she had been terminated due to absenteeism.  To add insult to injury, or in this case, craziness to the unbelievable, just before Christmas at a gathering of some 250 people, the local highest ranking company official had presented her with an award of recognition for accomplishing some amazing task in a ridiculously short amount of time.  He even said that what had taken him a year to do, she did in just three months!

So what the hell is going on? I know, I know  there are two sides to every story.  And I also know that as a loyal friend, I am bound to easily see my friends’ versions of events.  Precisely because I have known these people for more than 20 years though,  I think I have a pretty good take on their work ethic and histories.

And as much as I know that two examples,  anecdotal at that, do not a trend make, I am going to opine there are far too many situations of people being afraid to be away from work for fear of losing their jobs.  While public health agencies are advocating staying home to reduce the transmission of illness and doctors are dispensing medical advice based presumably on their knowledge and expertise, organizations are tacitly or directly sending the message that even legitimate absences will be challenged .

“Back in the day”, loyalty was an esteemed quality.  Today, sadly, not so much.  Companies have bemoaned a lack of employee loyalty for many years now.  My response is, are you kidding me?  In my parents time, employees were inspired to give the very best of themselves, what in motivational theory jargon is called discretionary effort.  In return, organizations responded in kind.  When companies talked about employees as “family”, it really was true.   The resulting symbiotic relationship was the ultimate win-win for both. But we aren’t in Kansas anymore, Dorothy…

If I sound hardened or jaded, I am not completely so.  In my own career, I have been fortunate to work for some caring organizations and more particularly caring bosses to whom I was very loyal and had that loyalty returned in spades whether in terms of opportunities for training, flexible work hours, autonomy or the ability to respond to home life issues when they “creep” into the work day as they occasionally and invariably will do.

So although I can’t say I  have personally experienced such a lack of compassion in the workplace, my sense of justice is offended on behalf of my friends.   As much as I hate to be negative, I really don’t think that loyalty will ever return to the workplace.  If anyone sees things differently, I would happily love to be convinced!!  Do you think loyalty in the workplace is dead?