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Thoughts in Response to Fr. John C. Haughey on Loyalty in the Workplace1

  • Sidney Axinn


For a number of reasons, Fr. Haughey answers “yes,” to the question in his title. “The object of many workplace loyalties seems to be changing from a person-centered focus…to a cause-centered or common good or public interest focus” (p. 22).

The idea of a change in the object of loyalty raises a number of interesting issues. The end of individual hero-worship seems appealing: to give love and loyalty to principles rather than persons sounds moral and ever so high-minded. One thinks of Plato’s move from the focus on the personality of Socrates in the early dialogues to the impersonal “Athenian Stranger” of his last work, “Laws.” But we must also note that the Athenian Stranger and his principles have hardly received the attention given to Socrates and the earlier dialogues. Would the principles of Christianity have persisted through the centuries without the story of Christ? Would we have Mohammedanism without Mohammed, Confucianism without Confucius, Buddhism without Buddha?

Do people work, fight, sacrifice, for principles without personal leadership? When they have, are those principles desirable objects of loyalty? Historical examples have ranged from loyalty to the fatherland to “making the world safe for democracy.” Even these principles were tied to personal leadership.

A morally healthy individual must have more than one loyalty, as Haughey says. “A single loyalty invariably becomes extreme” (p. 9). Therefore, loyalty to one’s business connection is not to be the only loyalty. The problem, then, is to balance the business loyalty with the others. Fr. Haughey gives some, but very little, guidance on this tricky matter.



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2. F. Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, trans, by Helen Zimmern, The Philosophy of Nietzsche (New York: Modern Library, 1927), pp. 504–506.


1. John C. Haughey, “Does Loyalty in the Workplace Have a Future?” Business Ethics Quarterly, Vol. 3, No.l, January 1993, pp. 1–16.


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