Are You Loyal to the Absent?

To Retain those who are present, be loyal to those who are absent. - Stephen Covey
(Stephen R. Covey Quotes, n.d.)

The late Dr. Stephen R. Covey, from what I understand, coined the concept, “Loyal to the Absent.”  Basically, it means, you are loyal to someone in their presence and absence.  Or as Covey (1994) explains, “Being loyal to those who are absent and assuming good faith of others are keys to building trust in a culture” (para. 1).

This can be a challenge to master; yet, what if we looked at it as an opportunity?

Where people knew, their name was safe with us.

That when we leave a conversation, our name is safe with them, too.

Think, though, of family reunions.  Or workplaces, clubs, families, committees, etc.

Anywhere people exist, the tendency to be disloyal exists.

So how to overcome it?

When someone says something negative about another who is not there to defend himself, you could say something like, “That is not my experience with Jane.  However, I have known her to be full of integrity, etc.”  And then ask to be excused from the conversation.

Not saying anything could be perceived as supporting the disloyalty.

A retired Army Chaplain and Colonel I know is full of loyalty.

He speaks only of peoples’ virtue’s.

Not their vices.

Because of this, I know my reputation, heck my person, is safe with him.

Truly, we can find something good about everyone.  Even if it is just one thing.

After all, if we look for good, we find it.  Conversely, if we look for what people are doing wrong, we find it.

Let’s, though, work to be loyal to those in their absence and presence.

Not only will our words and actions speak volumes, but we will be teaching others how to be loyal in someone’s absence and presence as well.

Another byproduct?  Creating safe and healthy relationships and culture, too.

So next time you have an opportunity to share a vice?

Share a virtue instead.

Then tell everyone.

To read more on “Loyal to the Absent,” visit


Covey, S. R. (1994). Be loyal to those absent.  Retrieved from http://www.franklincovey.c/FCCAWeb/aspx/library_articles_eff1.htm

Stephen Covey quotes. (n.d.).  Retrieved from


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Cynthia Kimball Davis: Hope-based guru, writer, teacher, smoothie, gum & dog lover, family is everything, disciple, is excellent, do great things! ;)

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