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Are you loyal to your profession, or your company?

In How to work better, Information industry on October 15, 2010 by Alan Lovell Tagged: , , ,

I was reading an article on why everyone hates HR. The post was so so, but what I found really interesting were the comments. Taking them as representative, people really do hate HR! (but of course, who takes comments as representative, or at least representative of what…?). Anyway, regardless of my views re: HR, one of the comments caught my eye:

“Though a bit wordy – I think you are correct.. IT departments do the same aswell – They feel they are separate from the business and by thinking it, make it so..”

… thus making the point that somehow HR professionals consider themselves in some way removed from the rest of the business. And I wondered, are information professionals and librarian-y types the same? If I were to ask you, do you consider your first loyalty to your profession, or to your company – which would it be? If you had to do something that in some way “harmed” your standing as an info pro, or “harmed” the requirements of your business, which would you choose?

For me I didn’t need to think about it at all – my loyalty is to my company; the needs of the business. Perhaps this is why I don’t sometimes feel like I’m a fully paid-up member of the information profession – that and because I joined the profession relatively late. But I think I’m right, aren’t I? I mean, what is the point, from a CEO’s point of view, of having an employee who is not primarily thinking of the needs of the business? Surely we’re doing ourselves no favours if we’re too precious about our profession?

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3 Responses to “Are you loyal to your profession, or your company?”

  1. This came up in a job review once. My colleagues and I had put in a comment about how we were professionals and had to abide by a particular code, which is why we were worth more money (!). The HR people interviewing us wanted to know what would happen if we were asked to do something by the organisation that was against the CILIP code of practice. I believe we answered we would stick to our professional limits as being good at our jobs is why the organisation hired us, and that knowing about good practice in our field was one of our benfits. And we got the upgrade in our job review !
    I definitely don’t feel more loyalty to the organisation than the profession. I’m hoping to be a librarian for 35 years in all – the liklihood of working for the same organisation for all that time is very very small. And the loyalty that the organisation has to me ? Where does that come in ? I think if you feel you’re always having to make the choice between being a good professional and a good employee, you’re working for the wrong organisation – the right employer should recognise that you are an expert in your field and will make sound decisions.

  2. Hi Librariann,

    Thanks for the comment!

    I agree that it is a two way street, and obviously this can only work if you’re employed by someone you believe in and really want to see doing well (not everyone has that luxury). It could also lead to something akin to schizophrenia if you change employers often (!), and ideally of course, being a sound information professional, and being a sound employee, is one and the same thing. I am most certainly not arguing that one should do something one considers unethical or improper! Plus you’re right of course that much of your value to the company is the fact that you are an expert who knows what you’re doing.

    But I suppose I was thinking more about the mindset, than being asked to do something you would consider “dodgy” in some way – I realise I probably didn’t express myself very well in the original post (so what’s new?). So, rather than thinking what’s best for my information centre, or what’s best in terms of being an information professional, we need to think “what’s the business case for this” – am I doing what I’m doing because I think it’s something an information professional should do, or am I doing this because it’s what my organisation requires from me at this moment in time. Again, ideally these two aspects of one’s professional life will run hand in hand and we won’t need to choose between the two, but in general I would argue that our primary thought needs to be (like any other employee) – “what’s the business case for this…”; only by doing that can we expect our profession to be taken seriously within the larger organisation as a whole.

    Just an idle Friday afternoon thought.

  3. Surely in the first instance we need to be loyal to our own personal integrity? Within that there will be an element of professionalism. This can of course exist without being a member of a professional body – though I believe being a member of such a body strengthens and supports this.

    Delivering as a professional means doing the right things for our employers. I do not recognise the picture you offer of a professional doing their professional thing in isolation to the needs of the employer. It is not an end in itself.

    IT and libraries can feel a little on one side of the organisation as they tend to be small teams dealing in issues that most people do not need to understand – they just need it to work. I want my service delivery to feel effortless for the user.

    The key for me on this question is that I need to be delivering as a professional to meet the needs of my organisation and the closer I work with that organisation and the better I understand the goals and objectives it has then the better I can deliver. There is no point in me delivering things my organisation doesn’t need.

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