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Loyalty, Wall Street and Lessons after the Fall

The financial collapse made some in the industry rethink their loyalties.

"Are humans inherently loyal? Or is loyalty a mercenary calculus?"

That was the survey question for a Wall Street Journal poll conducted earlier this year, and 51.8 percent of respondents said that humankind followed a moral code that falls somewhere in between being loyal and mercenary. While another 31.8 percent were optimistic, saying humans are loyal by nature, the question remains - when it comes to assessing your colleagues and employees, can you trust them? It is safer to expect the worst, that everyone is out for themselves? Does it depend on the work environment?

In an op-ed for Bloomberg, Richard Sennett explores the relationships between white-collar and blue-collar workers, and finds the former are lacking when it comes to how they treat others on their teams.

He points to the masses of financial industry professionals who worked on Wall Street and lost their jobs after the 2008 collapse.

"Looking back, they realized how little respect they had for the executives who’d worked above them, how superficial was the trust they had for fellow workers and, most of all, how weak cooperation proved in the wake of financial disaster," Sennett writes.

To improve employee performance, foster lasting solidarity and build confidence in higher-ups, executives should display industry knowledge and a willingness to learn what they don't know, Sennett says.