Loyalty is the most overvalued value. The plea for loyalty is almost always invoked when loyalty is not deserved. When people demand your loyalty what they’re usually trying to do is escape accountability. I am not saying loyalty has no value but rather being loyal to people and organizations who do not keep their promises, maintain standards, play favorites or exploit you is self-destructive. Being loyal to the undeserving is also bad for society because tolerating bad behavior actually condones it.

I am not saying loyalty has no value but rather being loyal to people and organizations who do not keep their promises, maintain standards, play favorites or exploit you is self-destructive.

So consider this… Would you be loyal to a group that: constantly pressures you to do more and work harder regardless of its impact on your health and well-being? rarely listens to your requests or acknowledges your efforts? issues demands for greater goals, in less time with fewer resources? rewards other people primarily because they are aggressive and self-serving? demands that you follow work processes that consistently create errors and require rework? keeps you in a constant state of stress and uncertainty over job and income loss due to job consolidations, workflow automation, re-organization and potential mergers?

I sincerely hope this does not describe your work life. But it does for many of the employees of the companies where I consult. It wasn’t always this way. It is entirely unnecessary. And even though it is exploitative and abusive we have come to expect and even accept it as an unavoidable reality. It is called mal-adaptation. It means that we get used to things that we should not accept. We see it clearly in abusive family relationships. It happens because a spouse believes that loyalty is more virtuous than self-respect. Because of fear we cling to loyalty as we reduce our expectations and throw away our standards.

Unfortunately our loyalty persists even if we end up in the hospital or others in our family are being abused. And the more we accept what should be unacceptable the more our self-confidence, pro-activity and creative problem-solving diminish… until we think “I have no choice.”

And the more we accept what should be unacceptable the more our self-confidence, pro-activity and creative problem-solving diminish…

Believing you have no choices is hitting rock-bottom. It is easy to believe you have no choice when you’re trapped in a work culture that is controlled by external forces that has no empathy for you as an individual, but rather sees you as a cog in their financially driven machine. The stresses and sacrifices you are expected to make are unlimited. One organization I know is currently requiring project teams to hold 90 conference calls three nights a week in order to achieve wildly unrealistic goals as they spend their days putting out fires that they create from making stupid decisions because they’re so damn tired.

This course started several months ago as an exceptional response to business emergencies. Now it is the way that managers are expected to work. Crazy has become normal. If you wonder why most corporations are unhealthy places to work I’ll explain. The renowned Cooper Clinic in Dallas now estimates that 54% of people who work as business managers will die from stress-related diseases caused by their work life.

The renowned Cooper Clinic in Dallas now estimates that 54% of people who work as business managers will die from stress-related diseases caused by their work life.

The primary cause is Wall Street. And no I am not a communist. I am a genuine capitalist who believes that the purpose of business is to improve the economic well-being and quality of life for all stakeholders. But that is not what Wall Street believes. It believes the purpose of business is to create wealth for stock traders. Notice I did not say investors. According to economist Michael Hudson the average length of time a stock is now held is 22 seconds. This seems incredible but he claims that due to computerized high-speed trading the sheer volume of stock churn makes this possible.

Fifty years ago the average length of time stock was held was eight months by mutual funds and over seven years by individuals. Treating stock traders as investors is ruining capitalism. Here’s how it’s happening. According to economist J.W. Mason in 1970 corporations invested 40% of their profits and borrowings into research and development, buildings and equipment, and hiring and increasing wages. Today they spend about 10%. Where do all those lost billions go? The profits that today’s employees are literally killing themselves to make are temporarily juicing the stock through corporate stock buybacks, paid out as dividends or extravagant executive compensation. That’s what happens when you let finance takeover true capitalism. All this became possible when the financial markets were deregulated in the 1980s and Wall Street moved to K Street in Washington D.C.

The cruel irony of financial greed is that by restraining wage growth our system is also restraining demand for goods and services because fewer people have the money to pay for them.

The cruel irony of financial greed is that by restraining wage growth our system is also restraining demand for goods and services because fewer people have the money to pay for them. Over a century ago Henry Ford raised the daily wages of his workers from a $1.50 a day to $5 a day because of the dramatic increases in productivity due to the assembly line. He also did it because he said it only made sense that his workers could afford to buy the cars they were making. His fellow industrialists hated him and labeled him a socialist. It’s so strange to me that we would come so far as a society and then seem to have devolved into a version of the Middle Ages when aristocrats had great farms run by fear driven overseers who intimidated the peasants to create more for the nobility.

If an organization is unwilling to provide conditions under which you can do satisfying and productive work, find an organization that will.

Maybe that’s a little dramatic but I say it to make two points. First, don’t mal-adapt! And don’t be loyal to organizations that do not deserve your loyalty. If an organization is unwilling to provide conditions under which you can do satisfying and productive work, find an organization that will. There are plenty of people who love their work and have healthy working conditions. Economist John Asker points out that privately held firms invest twice the percentage of their assets into future growth than publicly traded companies. Go on glassdoor.com and find companies where people truly love their work and how they’re treated.

What I found is that the biggest wake-up call for senior executives to change the quality of work-life is when their most talented people walk out the door. So if you’re working in a salt mine do your coworkers a favor… get a better, happier job. My second point is that smarter people need to take over the economy. We need smarter people, as in better people, becoming leaders of our biggest institutions. That’s one reason why I am so engaged in helping more women get in to senior roles so they can change the future. As I’ve written many times it’s the reason our economy is so underperforming and that our priorities are so shortsighted.

It is a biological fact that female brains are designed to be more holistic and future focused than most male brains. I really don’t care what gender you are, what I care about is that wise and competent people with moral ambition rise up. There are very few people at the top who have the perspective or the desire to make the changes that need to be made. It is up to us.

There are very few people at the top who have the perspective or the desire to make the changes that need to be made. It is up to us.

You can start that today. Be a force in your workplace. Advocate for goals that create real value, and processes that make work easier. Advocate for real wage growth that is consistent with your organization’s success. Advocate for a work life that promotes positive well-being. And please don’t just “lean in” and work harder to make a broken system less toxic. Change the damn system.