"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 21 October 1997. Updated every WEEKDAY.
Trust No One


[did anyone ever watch the show The Prophet?]

The wacky things people do for

money! Frank Gilford, the

Australian whose sister was

recently murdered in Saudi

Arabia, got the rare opportunity

to have his sister's murderers

publicly beheaded - but traded

sweet revenge for 1.7 million

cold, hard Aussie dollars. For

James Clark, on the other hand,

money was a secondary motive in

his 20-year career as a spy

against the United States. "I

was a (communist) sympathizer,"

Clark told a contact who (ouch!)

turned out to be an undercover

FBI agent. "Of course, the money

had to come in there once in a

while." Factor in the way

free-spending missionaries buy

up converts from Boston to

Bombay and you might conclude

that where Family, Country, and

God are concerned, loyalty's

favorite color is green.


But don't blame money for

loyalty's slump; even when

people wrote in stone,

relationships weren't as firmly

etched. Abraham was the first to

find out that God and Family are

conflicting interests. Country

doesn't fare much better: During

the Revolutionary War, the

Loyalists were the bad guys. Our

current model of devotion to the

three guiding principles is

supposed to be the fervid piety

of the Promise Keepers. (In a

telling sign that America's view

of loyalty is always tinged with

suspicion, everybody seems to

agree that the recent

holypalooza in Washington was

more frightening than

inspiring.) But Bill Clinton's

wobbly, warts-and-all

steadfastness is probably a more

accurate model of the complex

and compromised nature of

loyalty, especially when it's

loyalty to an institution that

has only money to recommend it.


This year's fetish for job

allegiance sounds good,

especially for companies that

have nothing but loyalty left to

recommend them. But as long as

Scott Adams has another breath

to draw, this trend seems doomed

at the starting gate. When you

can only work up a lukewarm

devotion to the United States of

America, how is Spacely

Sprockets supposed to win your



[i was tlking about it yesterday with 2 of the probably 20 other people who have ever seen it]

There's nothing new about the

notion of company allegiance.

Russell Baker, in his permanent

role as cantankerous codger, was

writing about the death of

loyalty when getting laid off

was still hip. And back when

those inscrutable Japanese could

do no wrong, wannabe senseis

everywhere touted chu sei shin

(loyalty) as the answer to all

of America's problems. Now that

the fickle finger of success has

flushed Japan's economy down the

toilet, we realize that Japanese

management techniques are

completely wrong in every way.


The 1997 flavor of allegiance

speaks to a more pressing need.

Unexpectedly faced with the

tightest hiring market in more

than two decades, managers have

rediscovered the virtue of

inspiring devotion and retaining

employees, and are digging

through the permafrost to get at

loyalty's corpse. But the

organizations most concerned

about loyalty are the ones who

have done the least to earn it.

When the poor schmuck who a few

years ago got axed by Chemical

because he came over from the

Chase side (or by Chase because

he came from the Chemical side)

gets swept up in the boss's

sweaty embrace (complete with a

company-paid tutorial and 100%

401(k) match), "Downsize this!"

seems an appropriate response.


[like the X-Files, good did not always win over evil .. in fact that's probably why it was such a good - i mean eeeevil - show]

Even if employees can be resold

on the notion of dedication (a

short memory being the key to

business success, it's not

impossible), there's an even

more important flaw in this

whole inspiring confidence

business. Motivating employees

and getting them to stay with

the company are different -

maybe mutually exclusive -

goals. The boss gives you money;

you give him service. The better

service you give, the more money

you get. The economics are very

simple, and this loyalty thing

is just a way of trying to fudge

an honest business deal.


The manager who measures loyalty

by number of years served is

more likely to get a reading of

the least-dedicated employees

than the most. The good workers

are the ones who leave for

better-paying jobs. Sure, they

may like the company, but the

money has to come in there once

in a while.


It's the underachieving bumps on

a log who stay in the same jobs

for years at a time, too lazy to

spend the weekend combing the

want ads, too disgruntled to

bother asking for a promotion or

even a raise, their hearts

filling up with bile and

bitterness that inevitably works

itself out in the petty acts of

vengeance Martin Sprouse

detailed in Sabotage in the

American Workplace.


[if you know where it plays on syndication - drop a line. i kind of liked that wacky guy who came from a cardboard box. ]

Let's face it: If Kim Philby was

the 20th century's model of

betrayal, he was also MI5's most

conventionally dedicated

employee. Converted to communism

while still in school, Philby

put in years of top-notch

service at Britain's spy agency,

all the while doing more damage

to the Free World than any other

spy in history (that is to say,

no real damage at all). By the

same token, you can easily spot

your company's most loyal

employee - he's been there nine

years, and right now he's

lounging at his cubicle, playing

Windows Freecell, stuffing down

the morning's second bialy, 20

minutes into the day's third

long-distance personal call.


Being surrounded by such

stealthy disloyalty is hard

cheese for the boss, but screw

that rat bastard anyway; the

real damage disloyalists do is

to their own spirits. Sleeping

through your job hurts you more

than it hurts your company.

Don't let misplaced allegiance

turn you into fertilizer. If you

want to show what loyalty is all

about, quit your job.

courtesy of Bartel d'Arcy

[Fresh Fish.  If you clicked here, I might make more money. You love The Fish, admit it.  Now click. Click, I say!]