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Defining Loyalty

Loyalty oaths are in the news of late. What does loyalty mean?

I have taken a loyalty oath once. It was when I signed up to serve in the U.S. Army and to serve and protect the nation and the Constitution from all enemies foreign or domestic. 

As far as President Trump is concerned, I think he has a misconstrued idea for what loyalty means.

For me, my definition is giving my boss my best effort in work. It also means that I will provide my best personal and technical advice on issues that impact the organization and him or her.  I have little time for those who lick the boots of their superiors, looking to curry favor by agreeing with everything that the boss says or does. 

Loyalty also means standing up for the boss when he or she makes a decision, even if you disagreed with it and recommended against it. This is the part that many people miss. You need to give your superiors your best ideas and if they are rejected, you must support the decision that has been made unless it is illegal, immoral or unlawful. 

There was a time over 20 years ago when I went to my bosses' boss and told him that I could no longer serve under my direct supervisor because he was unethical. I put my job on the line at the time, but my "loyalty to the organization and to my staff" demanded that I do so. 

Today when you hear "loyalty" talked about on the news, and the phrase, "I need you to be loyal," what was it that was being asked for?  I don't think it was my definition of loyalty that I spelled out above.

Eric Holdeman is a contributing writer for Emergency Management magazine and is the former director of the King County, Wash., Office of Emergency Management.