what kind of loyalty do you owe your employer?

An unsettling number of people are confused about what kind of loyalty they owe their employers. I regularly receive letters from people asking whether it would be disloyal for them to look for a new job (as if their company is a romantic partner they’d be cheating on) … from people who feel guilty about leaving their jobs for a better offer … and from people who would like to quit but feel obligated to stay because “we’re so busy right now” or “another key person on my team left recently.”

It’s not that people shouldn’t have any loyalty to their employers. But people get the balance wrong in ways that disproportionately harm themselves while benefitting their companies.

I wrote about this loyalty confusion at Slate today. You can read it here.


{ 236 comments… read them below }

  1. Holy Moley*

    My dad told me this when I first started working: “The company existed before you worked then and it will continue to exist once you leave.” I always try to remember this when I get stressed about leaving a job.

      1. AuroraLight37*

        Yeah, if your presence was the only thing keeping the company going, then this is either a one-person shop, or something that would have crumbled anyway.

        1. ArtsNerd*

          This actually happened to me. I correctly predicted that my leaving would basically cause the org to fold and it did. Took me *years* to understand that I only affected the timing of the full collapse, and it was already half-there anyway. If I hadn’t gotten out it would have crushed me under it. The good and important work™ is still being done by other organizations. There are so many other groups who can do the work™.

    1. Liz*

      This is very sound advice! I wish I had known this when I was in my first job. I put off looking for something else because of this and that, and it was a busy time, and so on. Before I knew it, several years had gone by, and i had a hard time finding something new.

      i also had a friend who worked with me at my PT retail job. I left before she did, and she kept saying she was going to, but that it was the holidays, and she felt badly about quitting then, etc. I told her, much what you dad said, they will still be there, the store isn’t closing just because you aren’t there, and they will manage if you leave, so don’t let that keep you!

    2. LilPinkSock*

      Are you my sister? My dad said the same thing to me when I was preparing to leave a job last year. Very wise words.

    3. CR*

      This is timely advice for me. Right now I am single-handedly keeping a failing organization functioning but they are quite literally going to run out of money unless a miracle happens in the next few months. If I leave there won’t be anyone else to do what I do – but I need to get paid.

    4. RUKiddingMe*

      My Granny Doo: “they wont be “loyal” to you…”

      The “survived before you/will survive after you” thing works for break ups too:
      “I was fine before I met you, I will be fine again…probably in about a month.”

  2. Anon and on and on*

    I think this story falls under the heading ironic. I had a boss who had a poster which read “the cemeteries are full of indispensable people.”
    I kept that in mind after we’d heard she’d been in the hospital for a month for work-related stress.

    1. Glitsy Gus*

      I had a mentor who once told me, “you want to know how indispensable you are? Put your finger in a glass of water, pull it out, see how long the hole stays.” It sounds negative at first, but the idea he was trying to impart was positive: don’t let yourself get trapped somewhere because you think everything will fall apart if you leave. It won’t.

      1. Alienor*

        One of my colleagues left for another job recently after 20+ years at this company. They were well-liked and did a ton of very good work, but it’s been less than two months and it’s already as if they were never here. I’m sure it’ll be the same when I eventually leave, and that’s okay!

      2. GreenDoor*

        I like this analogy. And while it sounds negative, it’s actually not. I mean, if you had something on your finger (dirt, jelly) it would wash off into the water. Or if you were holding something in your finger and uncurled it in the water, that thing would drop into the glass. So, while the water may return to a perfectly fine glass of water, your presence in it would remain. It’s the same thing at work – sure the company will go on just fine without you, but that doesn’t mean some aspect of you being there doesn’t stay behind. Leaving isn’t disloyalty and it certainly doesn’t mean your time there was meaningless.

        1. TootsNYC*

          Once I left a job where the boss would bring in bagels on Friday mornings.
          We used a knife to cut them.
          When i accepted a new job, I ordered a bagel slicer and put a post-in on it that said “TootsNYC Memorial Bagel Slicer.”

          Someone told me that even three years later, the post-it was still there. Someone had taped it in place so it wouldn’t fall off.

          1. Presently DeMo*

            I love this. At my old job, they kept my cubicle as “Presently DeMo’s desk” for many years after I left. My former boss would work over there to get away from her busy and chaotic office.

          1. Batty Twerp*

            And that can be both positive and negative.

            I’ve had colleagues leave and after nearly *five years* the ripples of what they did, or didn’t do, are still being felt (read: we’re still picking up some of the pieces!). Do we feel betrayed by their disloyalty? Sometimes, when it turns out they were the glue that held teams together.
            And sometimes we’re just glad they’re gone.
            I’ve heard their names still mentioned – usually with the same inflection and inference as ‘Voldemort’.

      3. Anon and on and on*

        I think the younger you are, the more negative or at least, more intense it sounds. It would be shocking to see the lesson like that as a young adult, but twenty years into the workforce, I find myself thinking, “I feel that. And it’s OK. It should be like that. I want to retire and give my spot to the next person.”

    1. London Calling*

      Agreed. I worked for a company for 12 years – overtime, business trips, all nighters. When it came to redundancy it was ‘Theres’s the door, here’s your cheque, thanks, bye,’ It’s a business transaction as far as I’m concerned. As I read on another site ‘if you dropped dead they’d be recruiting for your job before the funeral is organised.’

      1. Kaaaaaren*

        “If you dropped dead, they’d be recruiting for your job before the funeral is organized” is something I should write on my arm so I can constantly remind myself when I start feeling guilty about my very active plans to GTFO of my current job.

      2. BrendanM*

        At my workplace, it would be more like “…they’d be assigning your job tasks to others before the funeral is organised.”

  3. Stormy Weather*

    My partner recently interviewed at a potential employer. The feedback was good, and he has now heard from his recruiter that they are going to make an offer. However, the recruiter also said that the employer asked that my partner “show loyalty” and stop interviewing for other roles while they put the offer package together.

    Unless I desperately needed the job, I would withdraw from this one. If anything, it shows that the company knows they are underpaying and they don’t want another offer to beat them.

    1. Maude*

      I would first make sure the company actually said it. I was working with a third party recruiter who said the same thing when an offer was made. It turns out that was her request, not the company’s. She wanted to be sure to get her commission.

      1. Stormy Weather*

        Wow. There’s something that shouldn’t have happened. How did you find this out? Had you already interviewed?

        I bet Allison could get a week’s worth of content if she just read readers’ bad recruiter stories.

      2. Chili*

        Yes, seconding this– recruiters (even internal ones) have their own sets of interests and sometimes they say stuff that doesn’t represent the company at all

    2. RC Rascal*

      Yeah, no. No way.

      The only concession I would make is to stop pursuing other roles at that particular employer. All the rest of the employers in the world are fair game. Also, it’s not a bad idea to keep your eye on the job market the first 90 days on the job. Sometimes things don’t work out.

    3. Rusty Shackelford*

      “That’s fine, but I’m going to need you to also show loyalty by promising to give me exactly what I ask for.”

      1. Stormy Weather*

        I’ve had both recruiters and hiring managers ask if I’ve interviewed anyplace else. Sometimes knowing that will make them speed up the decision. Sometimes I say, “I’ve got a few irons in the fire,” keeping it vague. Others, I’ll get more specific, but tell them, “but this is my first choice.”

  4. BenevolentGodzilla*

    This was very timely! I gave my two weeks notice just this morning, and it was a difficult decision. I love where I work, I get along very well with all my co-workers, and we are preparing to move our office to a new location in the next few months. I have to admit, I did feel some guilt. But the new position is a big step up for me, both for advancement opportunities and in pay. When I spoke to my boss he was disappointed but said I needed to do the best thing for me, and he wished me success.

    I’m a loyal person, almost to a fault, but in the end, we’re all replaceable.

    1. Amy Sly*

      My favorite doc review team leader flat out told us when it came out a few of us were interviewing, “I’ll be sad if you leave because I’ll have to train new people, but I want all of you to get real jobs.*”

      *Meaning jobs that had PTO and health insurance.

      1. LadyL*

        Yeah, one of my favorite bosses ever was at an entry level job where upper management treated us poorly. We were all mostly recent grads and overqualified, and she was always encouraging us to look for better paying jobs elsewhere. She was a great boss because she was realistic: she appreciated that we got the work done but she knew that we were all heading on to better positions at some point and tried to be as supportive as possible. The things about that job that were crappy weren’t her fault (upper management wouldn’t listen to her) and she didn’t get caught up in the drama of it all. I ended up staying there longer than I might have otherwise partly because she made things bearable by being very honest with us (namely, that none of us were ever going to be hired up by the place, and we all needed to be looking out for better opportunities).

      2. TootsNYC*

        I probably hurt my departing employees’ feelings because I get so excited about them having something new ahead of them that I forget to act sad.

        I mean, I will miss them; they are great team members, and I like them personally. But it’s just not that important, especially next to the idea that they’re going to get more money, have a different commute, have more authority or something…

    2. MB*

      I gave notice today, too. I did feel a little bit bad, but in that sense of breaking up with a boyfriend that was nice enough but deep-down knowing we had no long-term future because we didn’t have enough in common. I really didn’t feel guilty at all, though.

      But I’m going back with my previous team, albeit in a much more senior position. My boss there really earned my loyalty by providing me awesome help and support navigating a gender transition, in addition to become a mentor of sorts. You just don’t forget those who treat you well.

    1. Retail not Retail*

      Some of us struggled with that for a day or so after learning that the vaunted full time raise would be done over FOUR years. Thanks guys you know everyone pays more than you right

  5. S*

    I have been struggling lately with this. My company underwent a buyout recently. I am still close with my coworkers and we survived in tact, but now instead of a small business we are part of a large public company. (1000+)

    I have a tentative offer that would involve building my own team with am equity stake. And I feel so bad thinking about it because I would be competing with people I care about and have worked with for 5 years.

    But it’s also what I have always wanted. I know I don’t owe them but I think I will definitely lose their friendship if I make this move. Which makes me sad.

      1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        Say it louder for the people in the back! True friends are happy for your successes and don’t take things like this as a personal attack.

      2. Glitsy Gus*

        I am now in competition with folks I worked with at other jobs. For those that the friendship was real, it’s friendly competition and it is very clear there are no hard feelings when it comes to clients and awards, it’s just business. For those where that isn’t the case, well, they really weren’t ever friends to begin with.

      3. Alternative Person*

        Yeah, after I moved on from a previous job, my friends there never contacted me again. Their loss.

    1. James*

      I’ve worked with a LOT of people who have left the company, often for the competition (it’s pretty common in my industry–I’m considered weird for having the same employer for 10 years). The reality is, those relationships stay strong. Something I learned early is that today’s competition is tomorrow’s partner and yesterday’s prime contractor.

      What I mean is, sure, we’re all competing for jobs, but that means that if I need to hire a subcontractor on a job, and I know that you’re good at what you do, even if you beat me 7 out of 10 times on bids I’m likely to ask you to bid on the job. And if you know how my company works, that’s a bonus–I don’t have to explain our submittal process, or what we’re looking for in terms of deliverables.

      I’m not going to lie, there’s a certain amount of strain on the relationship–legally I can’t say certain things to folks that I used to talk freely about–but if the relationship was strong and the people were good people you learn to deal with that pretty quickly.

      1. SweetestCin*

        Exactly this, and why bridges are rarely burned in my industry. Everyone knows everyone, the gossip mill isn’t really untrue (usually), and someone you used to bid against may now be a trade partner.

      2. Glitsy Gus*

        Yep. I used to have a job that often required sub-contracting. There were about four companies that all did the same work, and competition for the gigs was really bitter and fierce. Even with that, those of us that did the sorting and bidding all got along really well, we had a great camaraderie among each other because, first, it was a good group of people, and second, we know we were all going to have to cross-rent or subcontract at some point along the line. Sometimes I would spend more time talking to the competition than I would talking to the clients or my own guys.

        If anyone takes that cross-competition too seriously, that’s their problem. Ultimately, in the end, it’ll probably hurt them more than help them. Don’t be afraid to take this step in you want it!

        1. James*

          I once did a site walk where two of the guys opted to stick around for an hour after the site walk was over. Turns out they were competing on this job, but working together on another, and were using the site walk as, in part, an opportunity to hammer out some of the inevitable issues that arise on any job. And two other guys (construction is still dominated by men, and we were looking at digging a lot of dirt) turned out to be old college buddies and went out for drinks after they turned in their bids.

          Like you said, competition is fierce, but good folks don’t let it interfere with their relationships with people.

    2. Batty Twerp*

      I think this, and the last part of Alison’s article points to the crux of the matter. Employees dont necessarily feel loyalty to the organisation, but do feel loyalty to the people they’ve worked with and grown to be friendly if not actual friends with. Then there’s the guilt that you are leaving people you like with extra work (while they recruit your replacement), or are getting a better deal, or simply moving on without them – a similar experience to how/why school friendships dont always survive the first friend’s marriage, especially if the spouse is outside the original social circle.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        I am a paralegal working for a guy. I’ve been with him over ten years. I am loyal to him, because he is a mensch. I have gotten a raise modestly above inflation every year but one. He was apologetic that year. I have a rough idea of the revenue coming in, and I knew it had been a rough year, so I didn’t complain.

        I am loyal to him, but in this situation that is really the same thing as being loyal to the organization. The thing is, it goes both ways. This is one of those rare cases where I am confident that the organization is loyal to me, because as I said, the guy is a mensch. This means if I were to need medical leave, I am confident he would make it work somehow. If he were to, say, retire, he would do everything in his power to help me find a position somewhere else.

        Would I leave him? I can imagine the circumstances: either a big pay raise or eliminating the commute. But I would think long and hard about in-office quality of life.

    3. Antilles*

      In my experience with buyouts like this, there’s usually a lot of people who’ll bail out within a year or two of the acquisition when they realize that ugh man has this place changed since MegaCorp bought us out. So I wouldn’t worry too much because I’d be absolutely shocked if some of your team members don’t themselves bail out afterwards.
      If you’re worried about keeping the friendships, you could even use that as the explanation for your co-workers: “Man, I really hate to leave you guys, but I’m just really unhappy with our transition to MegaCorp has worked, just always preferred the closeness of a smaller team rather than big company bureaucracy, you know? Anyways, when this great opportunity came up, I just had to take it. But I look forward to keeping in touch with everyone.”

    4. Artemesia*

      Why would friendship if it is more than just fall back work socializing fail because you moved on? If it does, it wasn’t friendship.

      Companies drop you the instant it is in their interest to do so; you should not give their concerns a thought beyond being professional.

      There was a time when loyalty meant something — in the early 50s my father had a bad allergic reaction to pennicilin that put him in the hospital for 6 weeks and he nearly died and then he was out of work another 6 weeks. His company carried him and paid him the whole time which since he was the breadwinner for our family, was important. He worked his whole career with them and when in the last years was developing dementia, they carried him then to to his pension. A place like that deserves loyalty — but those places pretty much don’t exist anymore.

  6. The Original K.*

    I’ll do my work to the best of my ability; I’ll behave professionally; I’ll give ample notice if the company has earned that respect. Aside from that, I’m-a do me. Companies don’t love us back.

    1. miss_chevious*

      That’s what my mom said when I was starting out: you can love the job all you want, as long as you remember it doesn’t love you back.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        That’s what they say in the FBI. “You fall in love with the Bureau, but the Bureau doesn’t fall in love with you.”

  7. Eillah*

    I’m a career admin/PA, and I feel like a lot of emotions can get rolled up in that kind of dynamic based on the way the job has to be done. I sometimes have to remove myself from being too invested in my boss (the first great boss I’ve had!) and I find this advice very helpful.

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      You also have to realize that if your boss is truly amazing, they will be supportive if you decide to move on. They won’t make you feel guilty for leaving them.

    2. Duck In A Fountain*

      It’s true, especially when you’ve worked with the same people a long time. I worked in a group for 15 years, we went to each others’ weddings, cried at our coworkers’ funerals (really) and it felt like a family. Then there was an upper management change and they moved me to a different position that didn’t work out and someone else got the promotion I wanted in the old group. I was miserable and crying my eyes out at an EAP session about how betrayed I felt and the counselor was like, “you are taking this too personally.” That was the first time it ever really hit home that yea, I’m just a number to this company in the end.

  8. Extra anon here*

    Want to know how a company got my loyalty?

    When I had an unexpected medical issue, and needed to go on short term disability (at 50% pay) they told me, when I showed up to hand over the forms, don’t worry about it, we will give you 100% paid medical leave, until you are able to work again, which was not a benefit I was entitled to.

    And then my grandboss pulled me aside and said, “Do not worry, you will have a job at the end of this.”

    That gets loyalty.

    But you know what? If my company started acting differently in the future, if they started treating me badly, that loyalty would have an expiration date. Because things can change, and it’s not disloyal to evaluate your current circumstances.

    1. Jellyfish*

      I’ve noticed the companies who demand employee loyalty are usually NOT the ones who act in ways that earn it.
      Glad you found one of the good ones.

    2. LQ*

      I’d add to this that if I see a company treating others badly that would end the loyalty too.

      My current boss has been incredibly kind to folks who have medical issues/family issues/etc and goes to the very far edge of what is allowed. The moment someone else has that job the evaluation starts from zero because I know that the organization as a whole is not like that. Our division is because this person is.

      I’ve been lucky enough in my life to not need that yet, but I watch what happens to the best of my coworkers who end up having those moments.

      1. KHB*

        “I’d add to this that if I see a company treating others badly that would end the loyalty too.”

        Yeah. We’ve seen enough stories here about employers who have gone to the ends of the earth for employees with medical/family issues…by sticking all their other employees with an impossible workload for no extra reward.

    3. AuroraLight37*

      That’s a good point. The company can do things to engender loyalty, but you as an employee can reevaluate whether that’s enough, or whether things have changed to the point where the loyalty you felt is no longer based in current dealings, only from past ones.

    4. MoopySwarpet*

      Same story, here. Unexpected medical issues and was told “Just get better and come back. You don’t need to stress about paying your bills while dealing with your health.” I received my full salary for the entire 8 weeks I was out (or about 6 weeks worth after sick and vacation were used).

      To me, that deserves some loyalty. However, not full stop loyalty if behavior turns bad.

    5. Kat in VA*

      Similar circumstance – my company has never demanded my loyalty.

      When my husband wound up in the CCU literally dying from diabetic ketoacidosis, at some point during that blurry time, I composed an email to the HR head and asked if I should put in for PTO or what – because I wasn’t sure how this would all turn out or how long I’d be out of the office.

      Her response was basically, “Why on earth are you emailing me – take care of your family, prayers for your husband, see you back here when he’s 100%.” BossMan echoed the exact same sentiment when I sent a separate email to him telling him I’d do what I could from his hospital room (more like a horrified “What the $^#^ are you talking about, go be with your family, we’ll be fine.”

      No PTO was taken, no work was sent my way, no one bothered me until my husband was good to be on his own again.

      THAT will earn my loyalty. Not giving me static when I pull into the parking lot at 0730, get a call from the office telling me a child is throwing up and needs picking up now, and being able to text that information and literally leave all without even turning off the engine and get nothing more than, “Hope the wee one is better.” THAT earns my loyalty.

      The leadership team will show up to the funeral if someone in your family dies. They will give you more than the company handbook allows for bereavement leave, no questions asked. They provide paid maternity AND paternity leave. A good 401k match. Decent health insurance benefits.

      I know the terminology “like family” is frowned upon here. But these are people who, to me, are like GOOD family – fair, just, caring, honest, with the unexpected side benefit of treating me as an adult at whom, sometimes, life hits hits in the face going 100mph.

      THAT will earn my loyalty more than the excellent salary they pay me. Work is often a lot more than just a paycheck, and while I say I only work for money, having a company that has my back and people who care about me as I care about them goes a long way in securing loyalty from me.

      1. Snoop*

        I have loyalty to my company that has been developed over 9 years of their treatment of me. The one that sticks out was when my mom died unexpectedly (I was 25, she was 50). I had to plan the funeral, etc so I was out of work for a while. The day of the wake, 3 coworkers, my current boss and my former boss who had retired all drove 3.5 hours one way to show support. The next day at the funeral, 3 different coworkers came. They also gave me an extra couple days of bereavement.

        That’s how you build loyalty. You show up and you make it easy on the employee when times are tough.

    6. Presently DeMo*

      I received generous support like that, too. But how long does the loyalty last? I said to myself that I’d stay for a year because they were so generous (kept my job for 6 months during out of town medical treatment) and four years later I’m still at the same job. That isn’t because of medical-loyalty, but because I’ve gotten my paws into so many special projects, it’s making it hard to leave without people telling me almost monthly “If you leave, I leave.” It’s not a bad place to work, I’m just very underpaid for what I’m capable of doing.

  9. AndersonDarling*

    Movies and TV don’t really help with understanding that your company doesn’t deserve your “loyalty.” There are so many movies where a handful of employees work all hours of the night and pull of the big presentation and win the company the big contract all while somehow keeping their families happy and they are celebrated like heroes. Or the single mom that somehow keeps it together while devoting her whole life to her employer to be rewarded with a promotion. Or the last 3 employees after the layoff invest all their life savings to keep the company afloat and then the company is bigger than Microsoft after a year. Loyalty to your employer and sacrificing for your employer are romanticized for storylines.
    The reality is that every manager/employer that I know that demanded loyalty and wanted me to make sacrifices for the company, well, turns out that they were just using me. I never got a raise, bonus, or promotion. Company loyalty = Company Sucker

      1. Ama*

        I actually think the bigger problem is that the entertainment industry is one of the most abusive in terms of demanding “loyalty” for overwork (just look at all the stories about Hollywood assistants coming out now) so the vast majority of people writing and producing scripts don’t know what a functional work environment looks like.

        1. Amy Sly*

          Yeah, notice the biggest #MeToo stories aren’t accusing businessmen at the rate of movie producers, news anchors, and actors. Corporate America is by no means perfect, but the super-egregious violations like locking female employees in the office with their pervy boss just don’t happen when there are real HR departments.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            What? No, it happens everywhere (and it’s not okay).

            The thing is when everyone’s trying to slit each other’s throats for that sweet, sweet clickbait story to bring in the ad revenue, do you think they’d rather have a headline about Famous News Anchor from Major Network or Fergus the Middle Manager at Little Company in Bumblefuck, MT? I worked at a restaurant where it turned out everyone in the kitchen (except me!) was on the sex offender registry and that shit got super-egregious.

    1. Claire*

      I think part of the problem is that a lot of people in the film industry don’t have a lot of experience with “regular” office jobs—not to say making movies is all glitz and glamour, but it’s just not the same as the kind of salaried, 9-5 job they try to write about. So there’s the combination of trying to come up with a cinematic arc with a beginning, middle, and end, and just a lack of experience with how the majority of the working world works, and you end up with movies portraying an office experience that just doesn’t make sense.

      1. Nanani*

        This would also explain why so many “workplace” shows read like “high school but with a theme” where the theme is the job the characters are supposed to have. Cosplay lawyers/doctors/cops having dramatic adventures or romantic shenanigans may be good entertainment but it definitely paints an unrealistic picture.

        1. Threeve*

          The most dramatic workplaces I’ve had were the ones with the most boring actual work and people had to manufacture their own entertainment.

          Sure, we all spend 7 out of 8 hours a day looking at the same spreadsheets over and over again, but that last hour is all about how Fergus is two-timing the direct report he shouldn’t be dating with another coworker, and someone stole prescription medication from a locked drawer.

          1. The Original K.*

            A former coworker of mine worked in a factory in college and he said the same thing. He said it was factory work so it was monotonous by definition but everybody there was sleeping with everybody else so the work environment was far from boring.

            1. Stephanie*

              Also, factory shifts are often weird hours that can make it difficult to socialize and meet people outside of work.

              1. The Original K.*

                Yep, that was a big part of why my coworker worked there. He worked either second or third shift, I forget – whichever it was, it didn’t interfere with his classes, which was the point.

      2. Mockingjay*

        yeah, it’s hard to make an exciting script about mundane but crucial project planning, budgeting, and status reviews. We see too many people writing in to this column about burnout already. I’ll take steady progress toward the production date over Hollywood drama, thank you!

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          The best response I have read to “Mozart in the Jungle” is that it shows classical musicians what doctors, lawyers, and cops have felt all along, when they watch doctor, lawyer, or cop shows on TV.

        2. Claire*

          Right, every office worker in the movies is always working towards that One Big Presentation that will make or break their entire career—I think I’ve made two presentations in my whole career and neither of them were especially high stakes?

      3. NoLongerStuckInRetailHell*

        Claire, your comment reminds me of an episode of “Leverage” where Nate says to his crew “oh right, you people have never had real jobs” when they didn’t know about corporations annual ra-ra day when they make employees sit in meetings all day listening to the bigwigs talk about how great the company is LOL.

        1. TL -*

          Somebody on the Leverage writing team had a pretty good understanding of corporate and office culture – a lot of the episodes in offices were pretty accurate (though not the lab ones, sigh.)

    2. Miranda Priestly's Assistant*

      If you’re interested, there is a YouTube channel called The Take (they do video essays on movies) that did a whole video analyzing the way work is portrayed in American films, though they focus on Emily from The Devil Wears Prada as a feature example. (I think this comment along with my username will me seem like I’m obsessed with this movie, but it’s a coincidence it relates to this!)

  10. Amy Sly*

    Back when I was underemployed as a part-time shoe saleswoman with a JD, I was denied a promotion to assistant store manager because I was “insufficiently loyal” to the company. The same company, mind you, where I had seen four store managers, two district managers, and a regional manager leave within the same year, not to mention dozens of associates. In fact, the same manager who refused to promote me left the company before I did!

    Loyalty, or lack thereof, is nothing but an excuse to manipulate you. There’s the professionalism of leaving on good terms, handing over projects with good documentation and training replacements where appropriate, but that’s it.

  11. Lilo*

    If a company wants loyalty they need to have incentives that make you loyal. My employer does a great subsidized daycare, for instance. It would take a lot for me to be lured away from my employer because of that perk, as well as others, like retirement matching, flexible schedules, and work/life balance. I have been headhunted but without perks like this, I am not particularly interested in leaving.

    You want people to be “loyal” you have to make your job attractive to retain talent. Even then, life happens and people have to move on (my coworker left because his wife got an amazing job opportunity in another country, for instance).

    1. Mrs B*

      This, so much this! Even in places where the boss might not have the ability to make such attractive perks as these, it’s amazing how much treating people as if their life outside of work has just as much (if not more) value than their work life can inspire loyalty, if it’s expected or demanded…not so much.

    2. Arts Akimbo*

      It’s pretty sad when the same initiatives that Lily Tomlin’s character implemented in “9 to 5” to make her workplace happier and healthier back in 1980 are still the same things employees want today that their workplaces refuse to implement.

  12. The Great Octopus*

    oh boy this came at a good time.

    My company went through some serious restructuring (75% of the staff was laid off) recently. I was “promoted” but they made no plans to raise my salary to compensate the quadrupled work load knowing I accepted an entry level salary for an entry level role in a completely different function then my work history but am now operating at a manager level in my former area of work. I’ve made the decision to not stick it out with them as they’ve made it clear how one sided the benefits are, but I keep getting the “If anyone were to leave that’s it for this company” and “we all play a very important role in the rebuilding of the company” which I’ve been struggling with not feeling guilty.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      If any one person can leave and that will cause the company to sink, then it is pretty much over anyway.

      I read something a while ago that has been very helpful to me. Management cannot give away people’s inputs about their work. This means that when management takes that away from people, there WILL be fallout. It’s silly for management to expect nothing to go wrong here. It makes me question if the bosses even understand what “managing” means. There is an element of management that says, “You have to protect your people.” In other words, don’t set your people up to fail.

      I worked for one place where they established X policy. If there was a problem with X then the employees would be written up. The employees had NO say in the creation of the policy. The policy was publicly advertised as a big advantage to the customer. But there were chronic and predictable problems with X and employees were written up over and over then threatened with dismissal. It was the policy itself that was flawed. Instead, the company decided the employees were flawed. Chaos ensued as employees worked to cover up problems that came up, including paying out of their own pocket for any related shortages. They paid, just so they could keep their jobs. It was disgusting.

          1. ThatGirl*

            Wells Fargo had a huge scandal where tellers/employees were creating accounts on behalf of customers without their consent in order to meet quotas and incentives. Google “wells fargo account fraud scandal” for more details.

          2. Mockingjay*

            As I recall, Wells Fargo management implemented impossible goals, such as opening an unrealistic number of new client accounts in a given period or requiring very high dollars in assets. So to meet these goals and stay employed, employees created false accounts, bilked existing customers into loans they didn’t need, etc.

          3. Sienna*

            “From 2002 to 2016, employees used fraud to meet impossible sales goals. They opened millions of accounts in customers’ names without their knowledge, signed unwitting account holders up for credit cards and bill payment programs, created fake personal identification numbers, forged signatures and even secretly transferred customers’ money.” (NYT Article from 2 days ago)
            In other words, Wells Fargo bank management placed impossible goals and high amounts of emotional manipulation that led to people pulling a huge, illegal stunt in order to prove loyalty and keep their jobs.

    2. Senor Montoya*

      They just laid of 75% (!!!!!) of their employees, and are underpaying the employees who are left? Yeah, I wouldn’t bet big on them being around long enough for you to work somewhere else for at least a couple of years and then apply for a job with them.

      Run, my friend, run!

    3. lnelson in Tysons*

      Once the dust settles down, if I were in your shoes, I would do my research on what is a fair-market salary for you new position, then revisit the salary increase with management. I don’t know what the job market is like in your area, but not rewarding your fro staying, in my book, means that you don’t owe them any loyality

      1. The Great Octopus*

        Already did that and the response was “it’s not in the budget” they literally forgot to account for any raises for anyone left for the next year while making plans to keep the ship afloat. It’s about a $12-20k raise and I’ve told them I’d take less and an written agreement for a much larger raise on stabilization (when certain points are hit with the financial) of the company which they’ve been “thinking about” for the last month.

        I’ve made the decision to leave already (haven’t told them) because I am valuable to them but get nothing but more stress and longer hours and they don’t see anything wrong with that.

        I just struggle with those guilt loaded phrases they toss out there all the time.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          When they toss out those guilt-loaded phrases, remember what you said here: you get nothing but more stress and longer hours and they don’t see anything wrong with that.

        2. Arts Akimbo*

          Those guilt-loaded phrases are pure manipulation, same as any abuser would toss at you to make you stay. Please don’t stay in this job, and remember that anyone or anything *worth* feeling guilt over would care about your interests as well. They clearly don’t.

            1. RVA Cat*

              ….And keep you around until they go bankrupt and can’t even pay you severance. Your last paycheck might even bounce.

        3. lnelson in Tysons*

          Then start looking for something else. I read somewhere that employees should be “paid twice” once your actual paycheck and then the experience and growth.
          Once you are only being paid once, time to go. You might be learning new things, but not getting the financial rewards. If they are humphing now, they will do so even if the money comes in.

  13. The Reali-Tea Check*

    My general view on the issue of loyalty is that there needs to be respect and loyalty from the company first before I feel loyal to the company. That comes in the form of respecting my work/life balance, appreciating and recognizing my work when I go above and beyond, and, last but not least, the occasional raise. My current employer doesn’t value me whatsoever and I am currently job hunting. I am not going above and beyond at work and working on new ideas that could improve the company, instead just doing what I need to do. Loyalty is a two-way street and right now I feel none from the company.

    1. Just Another Manic Millie*

      “My general view on the issue of loyalty is that there needs to be respect and loyalty from the company first before I feel loyal to the company.”

      ITA. I guess that’s why I never felt truly loyal to any of the ten companies that I worked for.

      Company #1 – I found out on my first day that my hours, instead of being 9:00 AM to 5:30 PM Monday through Friday (as mentioned in the interview), would be 9:00 AM to midnight Monday through Friday, plus 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM on Saturday, plus Sunday morning. And no overtime! What kind of respect was that? I gave notice on the second day and said that I was willing to work there Monday through Friday 9:00 AM to 5:30 PM until they hired my replacement. Two days later, I was told not to come back.

      Company #2 – I thought that I was doing a great job, since I tried very hard and threw myself into it, and no one ever asked me to redo a letter or report or had to remind me to do something or ever criticized what I said to anyone. And then I found out by accident that eight months after I started there, they were looking to hire my replacement and then fire me. I was told that that was always done with people who held my job, because that way, we wouldn’t ever get a raise or get to go on vacation. And there was an office pool on what day I would get fired. I never actually got fired, since I found out about it before my replacement was hired and announced that the following day would be my last day there. (It never occurred to me that the company could have kicked me out that very day.) They persuaded me to stay an additional week by saying that I could work just a few hours each day and spend the rest of the time going on job interviews, and I would get a full week’s salary. I accepted the offer and managed to find a new job the following week.

      Company #3 – I was secretary to a salesman. Things looked good, until two other salesmen left the company, and their secretaries were immediately fired. (In 1974, I don’t think that a distinction was made between being fired and being let go.) I was worried that the same thing might happen to me – that I might do a great job and get lots of praise, but I could get fired for something beyond my control (my supervisor leaving the company). He did leave the company a year and a half after I started there, but luckily, there was a secretarial opening in a department. I got the job, and it felt good to know that the company had to keep the department. Meaning that if the supervisor left, he would be replaced. The company would not get rid of the entire department. But I did ask the office manager what would have happened if that department hadn’t needed a secretary at that time. She said that I would have been fired. No loyalty!

      I could go on and on about all ten companies, but I won’t, except to say that at Companies #6 and #8, the owners decided that certain employees weren’t supposed to get any calls at all, and I was told that if I gave any calls to them, I would be fired. The employee at Company #6 continued to make calls, telling me that while he wasn’t allowed to receive calls, nothing was said about his making calls. At both companies, I was terrified that the employees would make calls, because if the owners saw them talking on the phone, they could lie and say that I had given them the calls, and I would be fired. Fired again when I hadn’t done anything wrong. No loyalty! (As it happened, neither company fired me, but I still worried about it until the days that I left them.)

  14. ThinMint*

    I am wrestling with this right now. My boss is retiring and training me to take over, but I know that my dream job is to stay home with my kids. Financially, this may be possible just as my boss retires and I assume the new role, and I know that is terrible timing for my grandboss to lose 2 people. It stresses me out when I think about it, because I know if it happens like that, there will be disappointment.

    1. Triumphant Fox*

      Could you give a longer notice period for something like this to train a replacement and help with the search? Since you wouldn’t be worried about losing the job prematurely, which is usually the concern with notice periods like that, it could only be a benefit. It feels a little more like a retirement and I actually think people would be really understanding because it’s not even like you took a new job with $X or another perk, you shifted your personal life completely and that’s just not something a business can compete with.

  15. managing is fun*

    As a manager I struggle more with people with an overdeveloped sense of loyalty than any other group. If you work for us, you owe us to do your job and to communicate with me as needed so that we can solve problems, not for you to solve every problem yourself by working harder. As a company, we get much higher quality and long term work out of people who take work-life balance seriously. I always tell people to go home on time 95% of the time, so that you aren’t burned out the 5% of the time that it’s critical to go the extra mile!

    1. Just wondering*

      You are an amazing boss! Too many managers and staff where I work do not understand this. I get it when people are working and it’s their true passion, but was too many of my coworkers treat work as the end-all be-all of their life. At minimum, this seems out of balance.

    2. Sara without an H*

      I’ve run into a few of these myself. People, systemic or structural problems will not be solved by working overtime! Unfortunately, I work in a field that attracts people with a strong service ethic/martyr complex.

  16. Not So NewReader*

    Boy what a difference from what I saw growing up.
    The whole concept of finding ONE job out of high school and staying with it for the rest of your life could have died a lot sooner, I would have been okay with that.
    People were different,too, I think, both in goods ways and bad ways. Overall, I think that the changes I have seen are a HUGE improvement.
    But I do think of what my grandparents had and what we will never, ever see again. Grandpa had been gone for a few years. It looked like Nana would need a nursing home. My aunt went through the paper work and found the nursing home would be paid in full by Grandpa’s retirement plan.
    I think that good companies who took care of their people inspired these “lifers”. We don’t see much of that now.
    It is a two way street.
    But there’s lots of pieces to the story.
    An acquaintance recently retired from an area company that pays well. He ended up getting more in his profit sharing account each month than he did in his paycheck. He decided to call it a day. In talking to him, he had NO words of encouragement for joining the company. He answered questions but the answers and tone of voice were FLAT. I got the impression that the company didn’t just want his work, they took the life right out of him.

    I absolutely love Alison’s advice here and I think she has done a huge service for our society by putting into words this definition of loyalty.

    1. Nanani*

      There’s a real clash when the people who experienced “one job for your entire career” are in charge of hiring but the jobs no longer exist. They then demand loyalty under the cognitive dissonance that the people hired now will not have career-length tenures, will be underpaid and pushed out in favour of anyone cheaper, will not have benefits on the same level as those the last of the lifers did, etc.

      This sometimes gets expressed as (Insert Generation/Demographic here) is SO ENTITLED but in fact its the other way around. The employers feel entitled to loyalty that is at best, a ghost and at worst, an outright lue.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Some of those old time jobs were super UNsafe. People died at work!
        Thank goodness subsequent generations have recognized this as wrong and have spoken up. The idea that “The employer can do whatever” is under more regulations and scrutiny now than ever.

        Fortunately, the old guard is aging out of the work arena. I feel very optimistic about that. And to be fair there are plenty of older people who think the old heavy handed ways were very, very wrong.

        Now we have a new situation where workers are disposable. I know of quite a few places that change employees more often than I change my socks (which is daily, of course). And as you say, underpaid, not appreciated and so on. Respect is indeed a two way street.

      2. Sophie Hatter*

        Yes. My uncle was once expressing surprise at how often my cousins and I got new jobs, and I said something like, “If my job wanted to keep me, it would offer full-time hours and health insurance.”

    2. Well, there's this*

      Pensions, yeah. That’s something my grandparents had and a reason to stay with the same company. I think my father had one, not sure about my mother (we don’t speak). My father started at one company when he was 19 and while he had several different jobs, he was only with that one company by the time he retired.

      By the time I was in the workplace, it was all 401K or 403b for the non-profits, and most places don’t do any matching. The only place I’ve seen with pensions in the last twenty years are in government jobs.

    3. Stephanie*

      My first boss at CurrentJob retired a couple of months ago. He was a company lifer. When he first told me he had been at the company 30 years, I was worried he was going to be one of those people who was like “I bleed [Company Color].” Much to my pleasant surprise, he was not. He (and my then grandboss) were both like “I mean, you don’t get a pension and we have layoffs every 4-5 years. Why would we expect undying loyalty at this point?”

    4. aebhel*

      Yeah, I don’t really like the idea of loyalty to an employer, just in general. I have a *responsibility* to my employer to show up when I’m expected to, do the job to the best of my ability, be pleasant to my coworkers; this, along with giving decent notice, overlaps with my own self-interest as someone who would like to keep having a job. But I’m not loyal to them in the sense that I’m going to put their interests ahead of my own. Fortunately, I’m in civil service, where this is generally less of an expectation, IME.

      On the other hand, I watched my spouse wreck his mental health for years out of loyalty to an increasingly toxic and dysfunctional employer (and then his former boss threatened his new job with threats of lawsuits after he quit), so I’ve seen firsthand how damaging that mentality can be.

  17. Claire*

    It’s morbid, but something that I try to remember is that I could die in a horrible accident tomorrow and by next month or so, most things at my company would be running exactly the same. That’s not a criticism—I’m just aware that my primary value to my company is the work that I produce, just as my company’s primary value to me is the money they pay me, and if one of us stopped delivering, the other would move on. Another member of my current team and I are pretty seriously job-hunting right now, and if we both leave at around the same time, that’ll be a difficult few weeks for our team, but they’ll figure it out, just like they would if the two of us died.

    1. BadgerBadger*

      Instead of using “if I got hit by a bus”, I now use “if I won the lottery” – so when I think that thought, I smile and it’s not a morbid thought.

      Of course, then I daydream for a couple minutes about the stuff I’d buy and the places I’d go if I won the lottery….

      1. Mr. Shark*

        Yes, BadgerBadger. I hate the “if I got hit by a bus.” I always reframe it as “If I won the lottery.” Much, much better!

        1. Claire*

          But the thing is that if I won the lottery, I have enough of a work ethic and I like my coworkers enough that I wouldn’t just no call no show and leave everyone on their own to figure out how to handle my customers–I would definitely quit my job, I don’t like it nearly enough to continue working when I don’t need the money, but I don’t hate it that much as to refuse to answer a single question about a single aspect of my work. If I died, I would not be able to help out at all, and yet, they would still manage. Considering that, I really don’t have to feel guilty if I quit with a reasonable notice period–sure, it’s not ideal for the company, but the situation could be even less ideal and they’d handle it.

  18. Stephanie*

    I work at a MegaCorp in basically a company town (large metro area, but it’s very dominated by one industry) and sometimes I do hear echoes of being super loyal to our employer. Historically, they did offer pensions (people who have been here 20+ years have them). I am unsure how much of this is driven by being one of the biggest employers in the area.

    My coworker (this is her first job out college) was talking about doing a masters degree and I’m like “Yeah, could be a good deal. But you have to do the clawback, which is a downside if you want to look elsewhere.” She just gave me this blank look like I suggested she go work on Mars at the suggestion of leaving the company.

  19. CheeryO*

    There is definitely still some expectation of loyalty at my state government agency. People are more or less blacklisted if they leave for the private sector, unless there was a mitigating factor at play like moving for a spouse. I doubt it would extend to purposefully giving a bad reference, but the door is likely closed to coming back in the future. There’s a steep/long learning curve to our work, and there is never a guarantee that we’ll be able to fill a vacant position, so it really can have a major impact when someone leaves. The flip side of that is that you’d be hard-pressed to beat our agency’s benefits and work/life balance, so it’s not hard to be loyal.

    1. James*

      I think part of that stems from this being a government job. The agencies I’ve seen (it’s REALLY common to move from private sector to regulator in my field) tend to view their job as a vocation or lifestyle. “We’re saving the planet!” type thing. If you’re not willing to display that attitude, you don’t last long. That, plus far worse pay (though better benefits), is one reason I never applied for a government job.

    2. Junger*

      That seems especially short-sighted if the training period is so harsh.
      You’d think they would love to hire experienced people who can jump in with relatively little investment.

  20. RUKiddingMe*

    “Management is adamant that this difficult time is for staff to “give back” to the company…”

    “Give back” what exactly? They didn’t give their employees anything. The employees worked for it!

    I just hate this particular line of thought/manipulation.

    It’s a trade: work for money/benefits. It’s not some charity. Cut my pay? I’m gone.

    1. Former Young Lady*

      Exactly. If the leadership mistakes operations for a “labor of love” its employees are undertaking, out of sheer adoration, that’s a sign of extremely naive leadership.

    2. Stormy Weather*

      I think some higher ups are so far distanced from that they truly believe it’s a privilege to work for them. I’ve had some great bosses, but only where I actually felt that way.

  21. Anon Admin*

    I was talking about this last night with my husband. When I first started my company was great. As we have grown and added people, the culture has changed and not in a good way. We were never “family” but we all respected each other and got along well. I saw them dismiss a great employee last year for basically no reason. Someone said the employee said something, they were never told what the supposedly said, who they supposedly said it to and they were walked out. Without going into the long version I know, without a doubt, that employee did not say anything that constituted firing. I have been low-key looking since. I can’t afford a pay cut, so if I ever find a good place and can start in the same pay range I have now, I’m out with 2 weeks notice, after 18 years. If they will terminate someone without any proof, who had gotten great performance and anonymous peer reviews without a real investigation, then I could be accused of something and dismissed without proof either.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I left a company for similar reasons. They told my boss he could be demoted or fired or leave, those were his choices. This was a boss who is near the top of my favorite bosses list. I knew if he had these kinds of troubles then I would not fair better.

      Like your setting, he said something but he admitted he said it. And on the basis of that ONE thing they made him an offer he could not refuse. (ugh) Knowing my boss, whatever he said was not that bad and I could probably top it in a heartbeat. With this in mind, although I would never say that Thing, I knew my time was limited. If these people could not manage my boss, then they can’t manage, period.

  22. I'm just here for the cats*

    This article was really interesting. I remember last year when I was unemployed I had to take some workshops from workforce development. One of the classes was about diffrent generations in the workplace and talked about how different generations view work and their work ethics. Typically, older generations (Boomers, etc) will look at a job and stick with the job for 40+ years because they are “loyal” to that company. They don’t move companies very much. However, younger generations (Millenials) are more apt to be at a company for a few years and move to another company, whether it’s for better benefits, pay raise, promotion, etc.

    Now this is all generalizations and I’m not saying that’s how every Boomer or Millenial is. There was actually quite a lot in the workshop that I found wrong for my own work ethic. And I do not want to get into the whole OK Boomer / Millenial debate!

      1. Arts Akimbo*

        “Gen-X: They’re still unemployed from the recession of 1990, ignore their role in the workforce!” :D

      2. I'm just here for the cats*

        I never said that other generations were not covered in the workshop. They actually went over everything from the greatest generation all the way through to GenZ. I did put Etc, meaning the other generations!

    1. Not So NewReader*

      This is actually kind of funny because as a boomer I think of The Greatest Generation as the ones who would stay at a job forever. Of course as one of their kids this is what I heard growing up. I formed my own opinions and kept them to myself. I felt I had to, but I also knew times would change and I would eventually be able to speak up.

      If I were sitting in that class I would have had to say something. I watched as my peers moved from job to job and I did myself. Plenty of us boomers moved around a lot. I did not think of my parents as happier for having stayed in one place. Actually, they looked kind of unhappy to me.

      1. CatLadyInTraining*

        Yeah I know boomers who moved jobs a lot, especially when they were in their 20’s. My mother was a teacher for several years and stayed at the same school for several years, but she didn’t start teaching until her 30’s. (though she was a teacher briefly right out of college). My dad had several jobs until he settled down at the company he was at until he retired.

    2. Chili*

      As a millenial with boomer parents who stayed at the same company from college graduation until they retired, one note that is often overlooked by companies who lead these discussions is that *companies* used to be more loyal to their workers too. My parents got pensions, really great benefits, relocation assistance, thorough job training, education sponsorship, and more. A lot of companies ask, “Why aren’t more young people more loyal?” while paying paltry wages and finding ways to avoid giving workers benefits.

      1. I'm just here for the cats*

        I completly agree with you. It does seem that companies used to be more concerned over their employees and more loyal. At some point there was a big shift where employees became more replaceable and companies stopped giving out good benefits, pensions, etc.

    3. James*

      Oddly, my dad (retired last year) and I are the opposite. I’ve been with my currently company nearly 12 years, whereas my dad though 5 years was long enough for any one company. That said, he did the same thing at each company, whereas my role changes constantly. Wonder if that has anything to do with it.

    4. Former Young Lady*

      Another generational factor: overall job security, and barriers to entry. I’ve lost count of the senior colleagues I’ve had who earned comfortable pay with only a high school diploma — no points for guessing which cohort they were born in.

      When they retired, the company invariably expected a Bachelor’s degree (or more), and the compensation was scaled down considerably. Yes, the Lindas and Bruces worked there for decades and amassed lots of institutional knowledge, but the Madisons and Jadens had to be vastly better-qualified just to get an interview, and they knew they could be laid off at a moment’s notice. It’s just a different ballgame now.

      1. Oh So Anon*

        Yup. The other part of this that seems to be more of a generational thing (and sometimes a unionization thing) is people whose salary progression comes entirely through gaining seniority. Like think of someone who has worked in the same (nominally) entry-level position for decades who may outearn workers with more education, training, and responsibility but less tenure. Those salary advantages are unlikely to follow them to another job, union or not, so they stay put.

        Even working in a setting where someone people are unionized so this sort of career trajectory is still possible for some Millennials, you don’t see this happen as often as it did with earlier generations.

    5. Oh So Anon*

      There’s an interesting socioeconomic class nuance there, though, which is that Boomers who have the right experience/education/training might stay at the same company for their entire career but take on progressively more responsible roles. From the outside, this looks the same as what happens when a Boomer stays in the exact same job for their entire career and gets salary mobility through seniority alone, but it’s really about two different ways of navigating one’s career. The former group of Boomers actively managed their careers in ways that aren’t that different than the typically Millennial pattern, they were just doing it at one organization rather than several.

      1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

        I agree that job progression used to be more prevalent within the same organization, but I don’t think it’s because of the individual employees’ career management. Many companies today – either explicitly or implicitly – don’t promote from within and the only way to move up is to move out. Pair that with the apparent death of a meaningful merit raise – or, hell, even a reasonable COLA! – and you have a recipe for people finding it a requirement to move companies every three years to progress their career at all, whereas in previous decades one could put in their time with one employer and steadily move up the organizational ladder.

    6. Nanani*

      It’s easy to be loyal when 40 years and a pension is on the table.
      Those jobs are pretty much non existent in many fields and places now.

      If anyone thinks Millenials job hop because they’re somehow turning down the chance to build seniority, they’re delusional.

    7. Stormy Weather*

      Old end of GenX here. My parents both stayed with companies (one in the same job, one in a few different ones). The longest I’ve stayed in a job is 8 years and I should have left after 5.

      The way things stand in the market right now, it’s often that the only way to get a raise or promotion is to get a new job. Three years seems to be the max these days.

  23. Chocoholic*

    When I left my last job to take my current job, I did feel bad about the timing. The person who would have filled in for me had just gone out on maternity leave about 2 or 3 weeks before, and I knew it would be hard on the other people to fill that spot. They survived and I helped out where I could (phone calls, etc).

  24. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    My parents were the “one job for entire life” people, as were the oldest of my coworkers at my first job out of college (home country, not US). For the simple reason that, in a small town, there was nowhere else for people to work. I had to be talked out of this mentality in my first years of my US career. When a colleague at my second job told me “never be loyal to your company, because it won’t be loyal to you”, it was an eye-opening revelation to me. Your company can also go out of business, or get bought up by a larger one. No point in being loyal to company A, when on any given day you can walk into the office to find out that your employer is now company B and you had no say in it.

    One OldJob had pensions. They also had layoffs, and brutal office politics at the higher levels that led to our division chewing through roughly a CEO a year. No one was job secure, so, while the older generation still stuck around in the hopes of retiring from that company, my generation and the next one after it did not. I still get a letter in the mail from them every year, saying that I am still entitled to a small amount in pension from them whenever I retire, for the six years I’d worked for them. Fingers crossed!

  25. SusanB*

    I just had an employee quit during a very busy time of the year for us. He felt guilty and I just kept telling him “Things happen. You didn’t plan for the offer to come right at this moment. This is a good thing for you. Enjoy it.” because he’s making a career change that he’d been trying to get into for a year now. It will be busy but we will survive.

    I’ve worked during enough economic crashes to know that sometimes the company folds right when you have a baby. Or sometimes you have to take furlough days right after you’ve gotten a divorce and are trying to make ends meet on one salary. Sometimes your husband is laid off when you’re trying to pay for a miscarriage. Life happens. Your work isn’t necessary always trying to screw you with the timing just as you shouldn’t intentionally try to screw them with your timing. But not every detail can be controlled and you have to just make the best decisions for yourself and move foward in that way. Just as your employer is going to make the best decisions for their health. Your needs and their needs might not match up.

  26. Beth Jacobs*

    This comes at a good time. I’m leaving for a new job after a year and a half. I do feel my org didn’t get the best ROI, as the job takes a long time to get someone up to speed. I struggled with the fact that I’d be putting an even heavier workload on my boss.
    BUT: Their onboarding sucks, which is why it takes everyone a while to start being productive. But more importantly, I was unhappy and wasn’t learning the kind of skills I wanted to. Though my boss will put in some unpaid overtime in the next month, everyone ends up better off than had I stayed and grown resentful.

    1. De Minimis*

      I’m in a similar position, I will be leaving a job after a year [probably] and it just wasn’t right for me. I have a new manager who will left in a considerable bind, as well most of the remaining staff members, but poor hiring decisions in the past have left the department in a shambles and there seems to be no one willing to make the necessary changes to fix things. I never felt utilized the way I should have been, and was really happy to find a better opportunity with a previous employer. .

      1. Beth Jacobs*

        Thank you for sharing your experience – I feel the same way :)
        I think that sometimes it’s impossible to judge fit in the interview process. And with project-based jobs, you can’t really tell within the first few weeks (lots of people feel incompetent or underutilised in the first month, it’s not indicative of anything). And after half a year you’re positive it’s not for you, but you feel bad about leaving when you’ve just started being useful. But that’s not fair and I’m glad we recognised that we can leave.

    2. Ariana Grande's Ponytail*

      This is fairly close to where I am at right now. I don’t have any offers or anything, but I have been papering the town with my resume and have a phone interview in a couple hours. If I leave in the next couple of months, my bosses would lose out on some really productive times from me after a big learning curve the past couple of years.

      BUT, they don’t respect my background or entertain my ideas and suggestions, haven’t bothered setting clear expectations, and don’t have enough of a vision to be able to train me on what the operating procedures are for my position. I’ve also received no help with balancing my workload, been questioned about why I was sick when I was very ill and still trying to come to work every day in pain, and was not supported in multiple instances where I was humiliated at the hands of people with more experience and power than me. I’m in the type of position that experience can be really important for, but they should have known that when they hired me straight out of college. So I feel like well, if you’d done a better job maybe I wouldn’t be so desperate to GTFO.

  27. anonanonanon*

    This is apt. I have been unhappy at my job for a while, but recently an employee died and I was really impressed by some of the things the company did to help out. I’ve been casually looking and seeing how it was handled touched me and gave me a little pause…but ultimately I know that person would not want their death to stop me pursuing other options that could be better for me.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Very seldom is some thing all bad, just like very seldom things are all good. Bad companies can get things right once in a while. I am glad to see that they were appropriate about the loss of the employee. But you know, that is pretty baseline, it’s outrageous if a company doesn’t show some respect.
      And as you say here, it’s not a stand alone reason for keeping a job.

  28. Spek*

    Just ask yourself – if my family member got sick, and I had to take a lot of time off to be with her, how would the company treat me? “We are like family here” often goes by the wayside when real money is involved.

  29. eshrai*

    I once (briefly) worked for a well known coffee brand in a local cafe. I was hired to be full time but the manager was fired the week I started and a new manager instated. She cut my hours because I was deemed not sufficiently “loyal” due to attending school and having a second job. I explained the second job was one I already had and that I would quit if I had full time hours, but couldn’t afford to otherwise. I had also expressed interest in applying for the corporate internship as I was studying business and accounting and wanted to work at the corporate headquarters. Like, seriously, being a barista is a college job for the most part. Most people working there were in school or had a second job….its minimum wage…

  30. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    The bottom line is that the only person who will look out for you is YOU. You could work for the best company who helps you advance in your career, is really supportive and treats you with respect. But they wouldn’t hesitate to get rid of you if it meant a healthier bottom line for them.

  31. Loremipsum*

    I stayed way too long at my last job and this was one of the reasons. In fact, it has been identified as one of the reasons why someone SHOULD leave the job or organization – because it’s a sign of codependence. And if you leave and the operation falls apart, then maybe it was a good thing after all, so something else can grow in its place. And you can too.

  32. Brett*

    Another thing to look out for in the “We’re like family” workplaces. When they do show loyalty “like family” to employees, the biggest beneficiaries are toxic employees. That means that people who should be let go are instead allowed to hang on for years, spreading their toxicity throughout the workplace and often indoctrinating new employees into their bad workplace habits and creating a new generation of problem employees.

  33. Dasein9*

    I will sometimes be loyal to a particular manager, in the sense of going out of my way to do what they need from time to time, when they’ve done the same for me. But the whole company? Pish tosh! I don’t care what SCOTUS says; companies aren’t people.

  34. Lora*

    You know how companies who want employee loyalty can get it?

    -Long term incentive plans, where after X, X+5, X+10 years you are given a substantial bonus
    -Profit sharing (if privately owned company), stock NRUs (if public company) that vest in larger increments the longer you stay; employee ownership of the company in general
    -Increased vacation days the longer you stay
    -Company-subsidized insurance plans for home / auto / etc, company-subsidized cell phones, auto loans, mortgages, commute costs. All those things are a real pain in the butt to re-do if you want to leave the company, it creates a sort of inertia if you weren’t looking very hard to leave.
    -Locate your sites somewhere there aren’t a lot of other jobs and pay substantial relocation fees to get people to move there, so it’s not as easy for people to find something else.
    -Golden handcuffs: pay significantly more than your competitors, or at least at the top end of the range for the position.

    Note that they all cost a lot and have their drawbacks. If you give a lot of LTIs but are thinking of selling the business at some point, you’ll not be a great acquisition target because of the LTI liability that has to be paid out. It’ll count against you in terms of business assets. Profit sharing, same – anyone who acquires you will have to buy shares, and that costs a lot. Also with employee ownership, I’ve seen some finance bros who are downright perturbed that the Great Unwashed (in my case, science nerds) have the audacity to show up at shareholder meetings and ask pertinent questions – they’ll give any CEO a raft of crap about it after the shareholder meeting and that definitely affects the CEO’s mood for the whole week. Vacation accruals also a liability you have to pay out. Selecting remote sites means you have a limited pool of applicants to begin with, and won’t feel able to fire even poor performers since recruiting is so difficult. Golden handcuffs are not at ALL cheap, there are often huge ranges and it can be hard to justify the top of the range all the time, you have to be judicious who you offer that to.

    1. Beth Jacobs*

      Also, they share the drawback of that you don’t actually want dissatisfied employees to stay out of inertia alone. You want people to move on when they’re seriously unhappy and burned out, because they’re probably not performing that great. But hitting the right amount of rigidity is difficult.

  35. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    Just remembered that, at an OldJob, I once had the pleasure(?) of being in a townhall meeting where the division CEO had everyone (several hundred people – we rented the largest conference area of a community college) stand up, put our right hand on our heart, and pledge allegiance to (division). He’d written the text of the pledge, that he had us repeat after him. No one saw it coming. There was a mass exodus from the meeting to the parking lot the minute the pledge was done. Everyone suddenly remembered that they had something urgent to do at work, and needed to leave the townhall before it was over and to drive back to their office asap. If I remember correctly, the CEO was let go less than a year later. (This was the place that had a high turnover of CEOs.) He’d only been with the company for a very short time, and had come to us from a very large corporation that has two words in its name, one of them a military title and the other a name of a utility bill we all get every month; that was apparently famous for this type of thing.

    1. Glitsy Gus*

      That is bonkers. Like, that is something out of a sitcom level bonkers. Of course, as with so many things, the truth is often stranger than fiction.

      Colonel Garbage must be a crappy place to work. ;)

  36. Jessica*

    The tricky thing (to me at least) is at the interpersonal level, not at the conceptual level of “the company” overall. Usually when people express discomfort or feel like they should have more “loyalty,” they have particular faces in mind. The intern they were supervising will be foisted onto a colleague. Their supervisor will have to pick up the “slack” and farm their job out to other people. Their big boss will be disappointed because he hired this person right out of college and sent them to conferences, that department whose long-term project you were assisting with won’t have a liaison in your department anymore, etc.

    Obviously Alison is right, it’s just hard to see things that way when you’re in the thick of it. I think that going over the checklist of what you owe to your employer in your head, as basic as it is, can be helpful in reminding yourself of that. When I expressed the fear that a few people at work would think me disloyal if I tried to leave or might give me a bad reference, my therapist raised an eyebrow and said “That’s not a job, that’s a hostage situation.”

  37. lnelson in Tysons*

    I don’t think that I have ever felt loyal to a company. I believe that I should give my best effort for the paycheck that they are giving me. Having said that one job, I was treated less than ideal, but couldn’t just jump ship with nothing to go to.
    Now I have felt loyal to some managers over the years. And yes, there have been jobs where I have also “left the manager not the company”
    At this point, I have seen too many people just let go and not always for actual reason. So, in a nutshell, I will be as loyal to the company as I see the company being loyal to its employees

    1. MissDisplaced*

      I think the longer you’ve been in the workforce, the more likely it is that you’ve seen the good, the bad, and the mostly middlen.
      There are a LOT of poor companies out there that make a point of hiring fresh grads who they manipulate more easily.

  38. TeapotNinja*

    I think I’m going to start asking a question “What exactly does that mean here?” any time someone says the company is like family.

    1. The Great Octopus*

      I am confident I have lost a job for asking that question, but the response I got would have made me withdraw if they hadn’t rejected me already.

      She short circuited for a few seconds then went on weird tangents that summed up to “we are too involved in each others lives because we’re supposed to be a family not because we actually like each other” which tells me they must put the fun in dysfunctional!

  39. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

    Loyalty? Nope. Fair play? Yes. Employment is a two-way street. If my employer does something that breaks my trust in them, so be it. They reap what they sow.
    (One of the owners at Old Job complained loudly when people left, but they were massive cheapskates and the company had a 3.45 rating in our industries Glassdoor lookalike.)

  40. Rebecca*

    Loyalty is a 2 way street. As an employee, you need to do the work you were hired to do, put in a good effort, and do the best you can, in exchange for money and benefits from the employer. You do not owe them unpaid overtime, your mental health, your physical health, or anything like that. And you deserve to be treated like a human being.

  41. MissDisplaced*

    It’s a job. Don’t get attached.
    Unless it’s your own business, the only loyalty you owe is to do the work you were hired to do.

  42. Ms. Anne Thrope*

    Every other Friday, we’re even. I work for two weeks so the company owes me for that. On alternate Fridays, they pay me. Then we’re even.

  43. Dinopigeon*

    I tried to use “we’re like a family here” to warn off a candidate we were interviewing some years ago. The “family dynamics” included favored children, disregard for anyone’s welfare, shouting matches, ignoring boundaries, and the like.

    That workplace was very dysfunctional (they had all team members scheduled to interview him, even very junior members like me!), and was a misery to work at, on top of which I was younger and not versed in workplace norms beyond this group’s warped decorum. And on top of THAT, this man spoke with a quiet, higher-pitched voice, and during his phone interviews I witnessed our team lead and my manager (separate individuals) call other people onto calls simply to oogle his voice in private afterwards and speculate whether he was a “t—-y”. He very much deserved to be warned.

    I was interviewing alongside another colleague and I was too timid to say anything outright. I wish I had in retrospect. He took the job and stayed for three miserable years.

  44. Uhhhhhhh*

    My view on employer/employee loyalty changed when I reported discrimination and harassment to my company and I was told “…at the end of the day this is a business…. do you want an apology?” After that was so poorly handled, I realized my company didn’t value us as “people” but as commodities.

    1. Nanani*

      Discrimination and harassment isn’t about personal feelings. JFC.
      I hope you have access to a good lawyer or agency that handles these things externally.

  45. Oh So Anon*

    As messed up and narcissistic as this may sound, the way I see things is that I have loyalty to my ability to get a positive reference as well as my legacy with an organization. That means I’m here to do my job well and do my best to leave it on good terms when the times comes. I owe them that much for my compensation package as well as just generally being a good place to work.

    It doesn’t mean I’m uninvested in my career – in fact, I’m totally the opposite. But that plays into my take on loyalty, too; I mean, so long as I know I’m good at my job and add value because I am invested in my career makes me less likely to get sucked into a trap of misplaced gratitude towards an employer who treats workers poorly under the guise that they ought to be happy to have a job.

  46. Shazzbutt*

    I’ve been unhappy at my current employ for months and have a job interview this Thursday morning for an exciting role from an unexpected location.

    Of course, I feel a pang of guilt when I’m having a “good day” with my immediate supervisor and slightly reconsider….then it’s like the universe senses my resolve wavering, it sends me another sign.

    Well timed!

  47. Ms. Cellophane*

    I’m loyal to my direct boss, because he has proven himself worthy and has gone to bat for me many times, showing his loyalty to me. But our firm – that’s a different story. To them, I’m just a resource and replaceable.

  48. SleepySally*

    Ugh this is where I live right now, as I try to make decisions about whether or not to start looking for a new job.

    I don’t necessarily feel company loyalty. As far as I’m concerned they made their bed and now they can lie in it. I’m mostly struggling with the loyalty I feel to my coworkers and boss who will have much more difficult lives if I choose to leave. I know several of these people socially and consider them friends, so I anticipate being wracked with guilt if I leave and three months later I have to hear about how terrible things have gotten when we’re out at the bar.

    At the end of the day I know I have to look out for my own interests, but if anyone has any advice about dealing with the “the ones we leave behind” aspect, I’d very much appreciate it.

    1. Sara without an H*

      Maybe think about it this way: If one of the coworkers you feel closest to told you in confidence that she’d just received a fantastic job offer, but felt guilty about leaving…what would you say to her?

      You’d probably say, “Go for it! We’ll manage, and it’s what you’ve always wanted to do.”

      If that’s what you’d tell one of them, that’s probably what they’d tell you. Go for it! Update your resume and cover letter (see AAM archives for advice), and start job hunting.

    2. Phoenix from the ashes*

      Only advice I can give is that it hurts like hell at the time but the pain fades really fast. Like, days to weeks rather than months to years (for me at least ).

  49. Professional Confusion*

    This post reminds me of the one LW who took really drastic cuts to keep the company they worked for afloat and judged the other employees that weren’t making the same unnecessary cuts. I was shocked she came back for an “I told you so” update, too.

    Maybe it’s the Millenial in me but while I enjoy my work and the paycheck I receive for said work, if my circumstances change and the company I work for can’t meet my modified expectations, then I won’t feel obligated to stay at the expense of my career or financial growth.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      I read that one and I have to say that as much as I disagreed with her on a rational level… I could identify with how she felt and acted (irrationally), cutting everything she saw as in the moment “unnecessary” (probably not understanding that others needed the health insurance for themselves or their families… I expect entitled-OP was single, healthy and hadn’t had any need to use their health insurance and just assumed that of others!) and trying whatever she could to influence/’shame’ the others in to doing something that just may be the thing that makes a difference.

      I got the sense that she saw the company was a sinking ship anyway and did the “Hail Mary Pass”.. to feel like she was doing ‘something’.
      You could also call it rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic.

      I wonder where she is now? Probably not in a good place I’d speculate….

  50. Clarisse McClellan*

    In general organizations expect you to be loyal to them but are not loyal to employees. As the head of my division I try and treat everyone who works with me with respect and courtesy. I’m that crazy person who stresses proper work-life balance for all the staff. When I’ve heard of better paying positions where someone would be a good fit, I let them know. I stress that I’m not trying to get rid of them. I also know our organization is never going to match the pay.

    I know in reality the higher-ups are not loyal to us. I cannot fix that. I can only control what I can control.

    On the flip side, I do expect respect for co-workers, our clients, and honest work. It’s not never chatting or checking personal email. It is not spending the day surfing personal social media. Watching anime for hours when I was told by Lancel that he had a big project and couldn’t be disturbed. (We wondered why our Internet slowed to molasses in winter and tracked down the reason.) If you requested to go to splurgy conference don’t turn in your resignation the week after. That’s tacky. Especially if you know it’s eaten up a large part of the continuing ed budget.

  51. mlk*

    Something that struck me. The two examples that Alison used were both considering leaving jobs due to financial issues in the company. If that knowledge isn’t publicly known, should you use it when asked why you want to leave? It could be considered inside information. Do you fall back on, “Not enough chances for advancement” instead?

    1. Batgirl*

      No I think that’s horribly risky. You might as well wear a sign saying “I will blab all your shortcomings and troubled times about the business community”.
      Besides they don’t give a crap about your old company. What the interviewers really want to know is why you want to join them when they ask that question. They want something like “I’ve gone as far as I can go there and this is such an inspiring new direction for my career” etc.
      You should have (or pretend to have) an interest in the job beyond ”You seem solvent’ if that makes sense.
      It’s kind of like how the main reason for all job applications is “I need money ” but no one says it.

    2. MissDisplaced*

      Well, I did use it. But it was a very small startup and they laid off because at the time they couldn’t get a second round of funding. But I was clear to state that the company did continue… but I had moved on for something more established. Really, it wasn’t an issue, when you say you worked at a startup, people tend to understand it can be hit or miss.

      1. M. Albertine*

        I did, too. The recruiter I was working with cautioned me not to leave the impression that I would stay with the start up if they got funding, but I wasn’t about to lie and say I wouldn’t. So I qualified that by saying I was looking for a position I would want to leave for, anyway. I left out the part where we had missed paychecks and had all our benefits cut, though.

        Start my new job in a couple weeks!

  52. Batgirl*

    I think the most unsettling version of this I’ve come across the idea someone is wronging their company by having the temerity to become pregnant. I’ve heard people say “Wow can you believe she’s having a baby when the department is so understaffed” (Even when I pulled this person up, she still maintained it’s different for teachers than in the business world, because …kids?)
    I’ve also heard someone say “God, I feel terrible going off on maternity when I’ve only been here a year”.
    It’s a job! In no way can a business relationship, a company which can and will pull the rug out any time they please, ever ever compare to your real-life and permanent relationships.

    1. Anon for this one*

      But ultimately “the company” is funding your life, and your family, by dint of you having this particular job at this partciular moment and they are paying you a salary for this.

      And that’s why you owe them loyalty — because you are just one staff payroll number to your employer, among 100 (or whatever) others… but your income from that employer is all of your household income! (especially if your partner is a “stay at home parent” rather than having gone back to work) — And so in some sense your family life as you see it is subject to you remaining employed at this job.

      I can see how everything could change so easily — and I’m scared about that.

      I am happily child-free but I’d also feel bad for going off on maternity if I’d only contributed a year of actual work, for what it’s worth.

      1. Batgirl*

        Well, people get pregnant and any company who is surprised by that shouldn’t be working with humans.
        I’m not saying we little fish can all afford to be laissez-faire about how the company sees us. All I’m saying is that the consideration must stay purely economical; it’s only because as you say “they fund your life and your family” that we give it any thought.
        Prioritising how you sell your work in way that benefits you is not a moral issue that you need to feel personally bad about, unless you are shorting them on professional expectations. It’s true that if the company is on a power trip about how much of your personal life and goals you owe them, you might not be in a powerful enough position to not care. But even in that case I would advise a trip to another job over guilt tripping yourself.
        However in my experience, the insistence on a ‘bound’ mentality isn’t as common as employees fear. Very often the company DOES see you as just another number and are happy to have another number replace you or fill in for you. It’s usually the individual and their peers who see themselves as irreplaceable and valued for their loyalty. Often because of early jobs which are exploitative of the young.

        1. aebhel*

          FWIW I hate that phrasing; my spouse’s toxic ex-boss was all about that ‘you only have a HOUSE because I FUNDED IT’ bs, as though his salary was generous largess and not, you know, compensation for his labor. There’s this underlying assumption that employers are doing employees a favor by paying them, and that this kindness should earn them loyalty.

          Also, yeah, companies employ human beings, and human beings get sick, get pregnant, break bones, have family emergencies, et cetera. A company that can’t accommodate those realities is a company that’s not being competently run.

  53. RJ*

    I’m trying to come to terms with what loyalty to a company means to me, given my current situation. I was laid off at the beginning of this month after two years from my previous job due to a ‘restructuring’ that affected only me in my department of four. It wasn’t the best job and I had been planning to leave this year regardless, but it came as a shock as my performance was highly praised, I’d received a raise for the year and had solid relationships with my project teams. I had been at my previous two positions for twelve years and nine years respectively. I’m a Gen Xer surrounded by fellow Gen Exers in my industry being constantly laid off or even forced into early retirement due to departmental changes.

    At this point, I will give my future employer all due professionalism, courtesy, and the requisite amount of time if and when I decide to leave, but that’s it. And I’m weighing given the circumstances and changes in design/engineering, what a job-hopper is or isn’t.

  54. Piano Girl*

    This. I worked for nine years for a real estate development company, where I took great pride in being an employee. As time went on, though, it became more and more apparent that I was simply a cog. Broken promises, delayed promotions, etc all led to my dissatisfaction. I was eventually laid off so someone else could keep their job. My manager resigned a couple of weeks later. I was told that if they had known, they never would have let me go. I finally pointed out that I hadn’t found another job. Silence.
    I still wish them well, but do I think they are trustworthy? No.

  55. Phoenix from the ashes*

    So, non-US people (Commonwealth especially), how much unpaid overtime do you owe your employer if you’re a white collar worker but low down in the pecking order, and not a manager?

    1. Heaven*

      I’ll do the odd half hour past finishing time or skip a lunch break when needed. Any more than that and we take the time back in lieu.

      (I’m in the UK, for reference.)

    2. londonedit*

      I (UK) don’t feel like I ‘owe’ my employer any unpaid overtime. I guess I’m lucky to have worked for employers that don’t demand a lot of people’s time outside office hours – the understanding is that we’re woefully underpaid in this industry, but at least no one is going to expect you to work overtime. However in times of dire need I will of course stay a bit later if necessary – but I’d never work at the weekend or stay hours beyond my finish time unless I was going to get the time off in lieu afterwards.

    3. Bluesboy*

      Completely depends on how flexible the company is with me!

      If I need to come in a bit late one morning because I have to take my son to the doctor, or leave a bit early because my wife needs help with something and the company is fine with that, without nickeling and diming me, well then I’ll put in the overtime (in my case it normally means travelling on a Sunday so I can have meetings at another location first thing on Monday morning).

      If I am fifteen minutes late because there was an accident on my commute and they take it off my pay, make me count it as PTO, think they can discipline me for it…well then I’m going to put in my request for overtime next time I do it. And if I don’t get paid that overtime then I’m looking for another job.

      In the end it comes down to what people have said above – neither of you owe each other anything. I work, they pay me, we’re even. If they’re willing to give me extra flexibility over and above my paycheck, I want to give it back – I want to keep us even.

  56. Not So NewReader*

    I kind of feel like there is a tie-in here with “passion”. No, I am not going to have undying loyalty. No, you are not buying my passions for the price of a paycheck. And I don’t need to be passionate about my job in order to be a great employee. I tend to think it’s better to hire people who are in charge of their emotions, rather than people who are motivated by their emotions. A person can fall out of passion on a moment’s notice as in “just not feeling it anymore”.
    Employers seem to use passion to estimate loyalty but fail to understand that it’s when the chips are down the ’employee’s ETHICS is what carries them, not their passion.

  57. Uldi*

    I’ve said it before, you are leasing a portion of your time and labor for compensation. The only thing owed is that labor and time; and only to the limit covered by that compensation. And thank you Alison for bringing up the whole “We’re a family” nonsense some companies use.

    I’ve always resisted the urge (often encouraged by employers) to become friends with coworkers precisely to prevent myself from falling into that loyalty trap. And yes, I use the word trap deliberately. Employers are well aware that it is human nature for people to develop a sense of loyalty to those they come to see as friends, and will absolutely use that. In fact, that’s a big part of team building exercises. You aren’t there just to learn to work together, you’re there to form bonds that are more than strictly professional; the same applies to after work happy hours.

  58. Witch in Training*

    Unfortunately, there is always the possibility that even if you bend over backwards to try to demonstrate your loyalty to an employer, it could go unacknowledged or unnoticed. That results in a big expenditure of time, energy, and effort that, at the end of the day, may not be worth it. You could be the perfect employee and go above and beyond what is asked of you in your job, and your employer may still think, “I just wished employee X *wanted* this company to succeed the same way that I do!” I’ve mostly seen this in small businesses, where owners may lament the fact that their employees don’t have as deep of an emotional investment in the longevity of their business as they do…yet obviously this is a ridiculous expectation. Unless you have equity in an organization, or some economic motivator other than a typical salary for the work that you’re doing, an employee’s loyalty needs to have boundaries.

    Also, consider your role, responsibilities, and skill set; when judged on those metrics, the vast majority of us employees aren’t so extremely rare that we can’t be replaced. You would need to be really, really unique to be truly irreplaceable in today’s job market, and the reality is that with the right recruitment, training, and management, your employer could find another “you” whenever they want. And depending on the nature of your employer and how loyal they feel towards their employees, they may not even feel bad about doing that.

    I’ve heard this from many people numerous times over the course of my life and career: you could die tomorrow morning, and your employer may start advertising an opening for your position by that afternoon. Do your job well and professionally, but don’t give something of yourself that your employer might not appreciate or reciprocate. Confronting your guilt and/or fear will probably be a more valuable life lesson in the long run.

    Lastly– the 10% pay cut situation is horrifying. Please, please don’t put up with that. Your employer already communicated EXACTLY how valuable you are to them– they just tried to mask it with a sob story in the hopes that you wouldn’t notice.

  59. Freaked Out*

    I have a boss who is so unusually nice that I go the extra mile for, and have extreme sadness over because he is really hurting right now. :( He has all my loyalty.

    I have a supervisor at a different job, who along with grand boss, told me that as long as a bullying superior doesn’t go physical, they won’t do anything about it because it’s an “interpersonal conflict I need to solve myself.”

    So I removed myself from working with the bully, and all they get is me showing up and doing my best on each shift where I work with a tough but friendly superior instead.

  60. Heaven*

    I really needed this. I’ve refreshed my CV recently because I want to move from London back closer to my hometown. The potential pay difference is minor (mostly because my line of work doesn’t pay much in the first place), I could go from renting a room in a run-down houseshare to a decent two-bed house, I’d be closer to my ageing and I’ll parents, the culture in my current job is shifting in a way I don’t care for… on paper, there’s pretty much no reason NOT to leave, and yet I’ve been hesitating to even reach out to a recruiter.

    One member of our team (one step senior to me; I’m essentially “her” admin assistant and she and my boss have been developing me for promotion to her position) is about to go on maternity leave. Her replacement is new not only to our department but the whole business (in the context of a business large enough that vacancies are usually filled by internal reshuffling) and my boss has expressed how helpful it will be for New Person to have me, the most experienced admin assistant on our team, helping her.

    And then yesterday I found out one of the other two admin assistants on the team is moving to another department, leaving me and the still fairly new and inexperienced admin… so now I doubly feel like I can’t leave!

    I know that job searches usually take a while and I should start ASAP but I couldn’t get past feeling like I was letting down people who are relying on me and that it might harm my professional reputation to cut and run at a time like this (my industry is a small world; many people at my company have worked together elsewhere before and I would be very surprised if I never worked with any of them again in the future).

    At the same time, I am desperate to stop living like a student and to have my own four walls and live like an actual adult. Maybe go crazy and have a cat or the occasional houseguest! Maybe not fork over the majority of my income on rent! Be closer to family that is getting older and iller all the time!

    I know I need to do this. I just… need to do it.

  61. lnelson in Tysons*

    Two other points. One often hears how this is a gig economy. Some employers just want short term people. Never a promise of a three-four month assignment becoming a full time benefited position. Why go above and beyond in the loyalty department when you know you will be gone soon anyway? This is not saying don’t do a job well. But that’s it.
    Also, yes every one can be replaced or a company can find some work around. One job I left, I was under no delusions that they wouldn’t be able to find a replacement or the company would fall to pieces without me. However, I did have some satisfaction that they needed two people to replace me.

  62. BeamMeUpScottie*

    I was told early on in my career that you should “Never love a company, because they will never love you back”. I have always stuck with that my entire career. I’m just there to work. I’m polite and get along with people but its just work to me. It might seem cold but I have seen so many people devastated when they realize they are just a number and they have sacrificed birthdays, marriages/relationships, mental health etc.

  63. Bananatiel*

    Along the lines of “we’re a family here”– the way that people talk about fellow coworkers leaving for other jobs/opportunities is very telling. I was in a not-great situation for a few years and initially bought into the talk of “how could Jane leave? We’re THE BEST place to work” and then as the place soured on me I realized they were really upset to lose highly qualified, wonderful people because no one had the guts to fire the toxic people. It was a big decision to leave because I knew once I did there would be no going back, I’d watched it over and over again with people refusing even to give references. I’ve run into former coworkers since then and it’s like spotting someone from a rival gang– they’ll barely speak to me!

  64. Small Biz Escapee*

    I left a small business about six weeks ago, and they are actually falling apart. They’ve lost clients because they missed deadlines and made terrible mistakes I know I would have caught. I was one of the only competent, sane people there. The owners were not nice people.

    I feel very bad that my leaving has caused such chaos–but I feel bad for my remaining colleagues who are stuck in that chaos, not bad for the company itself or the owners, who brought it on themselves. It’s not “loyalty” as much as it is survivor’s guilt.

  65. ThatGirl*

    This is really interesting to me. I’ve often stayed in a less than ideal employment situation, because, as a manager, I’ve felt that it was my duty to take good care of my staff. Historically, my staff has been loyal and worked hard and I’ve worked to cultivate that mentorship role.

    That being said, I have recently made a job switch, and, at my six month review, was told by my supervisor that it was their job to “look out for the best interest of .” For me, that drew the line in the sand – my supervisor isn’t looking out for my professional development and working to help me get better (which is what I want in a supervisor) – and that dictated my attitude towards loyalty. I’ve got to look out for my best interest – not the interests of the organization or the company.

  66. PolarBearFlavour*

    I really don’t care about work. I’m polite, do my job to the required standard etc but the moment I win the lottery I’m out of there!

    I’m temping at the moment whilst I wait for security clearance for a much better job. They think I’ll be there for 6 months but it’s still a temp job – they could ask me to leave with no notice. So the second I have a start date for my new job I’ll be out of there.

    I’ve had so many jobs, no former colleagues or managers actually remember me. None of it actually matters.

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