Displaying loyalty may bring more work for employees

Deliberately or otherwise, managers are more inclined to turn to employees they deem as loyal to complete additional job tasks.
By: | March 24, 2023

There is a tendency for people to trust those who they understand and have known for longer, including in the workplace.

That may go some way towards explaining why managers turn to “loyal employees” when there are additional job tasks to be completed. According to a new study led by Matthew Stanley, a postdoctoral researcher at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, loyal employees are more likely to be exploited by their managers.

As part of his research, Stanley created fictional scenarios for hundreds of managers to determine how much work they dole out among employees. In the experiments, employees identified as being “loyal” were consistently asked to do unpaid work and take on additional tasks, which they did not feel was “honest” or “fair”.

Contrarily, managers continue to shun employees they deem as being “disloyal”, providing even more work for loyal employees to complete.

However, Stanley was quick to add, “I think it’s natural to assume managers are malicious people, but that’s not necessarily true.” While exploitation does occur, many managers just want to get the job done and are not conscious of what they are asking of employees, he added.

READ: Drawing employee-manager boundaries after working hours

Stanley also rejected the notion that employees should then act less loyal, highlighting that loyalty is still a valued trait and employees can benefit in many situations from going the extra mile.

Instead, the onus should be on organisations to build in checks and balances to make sure employees are not exploited, as Stanley told MarketWatch, “It’s a matter of setting up institutional barriers to prevent this sort of thing from happening.”