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Building Loyalty Among Your Subordinates
By Michael C. Dennis, MBA, CB

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Loyal employees are assets to the department and to the company. Being able to inspire loyalty among subordinates is one of the marks of a leader. Loyal employees tend to work hard, work better in teams, have lower absenteeism rates, and change employers less frequently. Low turnover and low absenteeism results in a more effective and efficient department. The key question is this: How does a manager go about building loyalty among subordinates? Here are a few ideas:

  • Criticize in private, and praise subordinates in public.

  • Keep your word... whether you have made a promise or a threat - it is important to your credibility to follow through.

  • Give subordinates the benefit of the doubt. Often mistakes occur because employees have not been fully trained. If this is part of the cause of a problem, accept the blame yourself.

  • Tell the truth, even when you know what you need to say is something your subordinate does not want to hear, such as:

    1. Their performance is below expectations

    2. They made errors that should not have been made

    3. They are being demoted or assigned new duties because they have not demonstrated the competence and/or commitment to the position they have been assigned to.

  • Treat customer, co-workers, and subordinates with respect. Good manners, and civility cost nothing.

  • Show appreciation when tasks are performed in an exemplary manner.

  • Avoid favoritism among your subordinates. Nothing sows the seeds of discontent faster than supervisors who play favorites among employees of substantially similar skills and abilities. [Note: This does not mean that your best and brightest employees should not have some choice in their assignments.]

  • Formally review the performance of every worker at least once a year . . . and ideally twice a year with informal discussions no less frequently than quarterly.

  • Provide specific and measurable goals for every person in the department, and make sure that they are stretch goals [meaning that the goals that are not easy to achieve]

  • Support and defend your subordinates when it comes to judgment calls. If your employee has violated a departmental or company policy, it would be inappropriate to support them . . . but as it relates to judgment calls, hindsight is 20/20. Your subordinates should not be criticized for exercising discretion as part of their job duties.

  • Notwithstanding the fact that the credit department is not a democracy, do what you can to treat subordinates as your equals. Implicit in doing so is to solicit their opinions; listen without unnecessary interruptions to their comments; giving credit to them for recommendations or ideas that you choose to accept.

  • Don't disparage other departments, department heads, or the employees of other departments to your subordinates. It is unwise to create an "us against them" mentality - especially as it relates to the sales/credit interaction. Loyalty should not simply be limited to the department and the department manager, department wide. Truly loyal employees feel loyalty to:

    1. Their co-workers

    2. Their manager

    3. Their employer, and

    4. To the goods and services their company sells

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