Fifty years ago it was commonplace to begin and end your career with the same company. It worked for many reasons, primarily because loyalty was a two-way street for both the employees and employers. But much like the other changes we’ve faced in our lives, the face of loyalty has changed over the last few decades as well. In fact, a recent study by MetLife showed employee loyalty at a 7 year low. Logically it stands to reason the employees are the “problem” in this trend. Or does it? You see, unfortunately, there are far too many recent examples of employers “sticking it to” employees to believe it’s a one-sided situation.

Consider this and I think you’ll understand my point. A few months back a major and long-standing grocer in our town announced they were closing their doors. While that’s not particularly unusual, the way they shared information to their valued employees left much to be desired. You see, the employees (many who had worked there from day 1!) received a phone call with the news that they no longer had a job at 6:30 in the morning…literally just minutes before it was the top story on the radio.

Sure there are still some employers that truly value and treasure their staff, but unfortunately the vast majority no longer exhibits the loyalty they once did. In the glory days of 1950, (or even 1970!) employers closed locations and displaced workers as last resorts. Business owners were vested in their staff and their communities. But somehow we’ve gone from that utopia to an environment where employees are often considered as expendable as yesterdays coffee.

Which caused me to ponder a question….should you be loyal to your employer?

I’m not talking about stealing from them (in money or time!) but rather the type of loyalty that causes you to stay put instead of finding your next opportunity. You see, employers can show loyalty in a myriad of ways ranging from honest communication to helping you develop new skills and of course the confidence of continued employment! But to many of us “old timers,” the purest form of loyalty for employees is simply staying on the corporate train…even when it’s headed for a brick wall.

Perhaps once again, the young kids can teach us a thing or too. You see, while there’s been much hype about Millennials and their incessant job hopping (which by the way may be bogus!) many cite the lack of employer loyalty for their moves. Unfortunately, stories like that of my hometown grocer have given Millennial’s far too many examples from which to draw. So it’s no surprise they behave differently than their boomer counterparts. You see, while their parents may have stayed put when faced with buzzwords like those shown below, this group realizes their career is an affair of the brain…not the heart.

  • Broken Promises
  • Poor Communication
  • Company Instability
  • Limited Developmental Opportunities
  • Misguided Management
  • Meager Leadership
  • No Passion (for you or them!)
  • Lack of Trust
  • Poor Business Strategy
  • Limited Vision

While these buzzwords don’t promise trouble ahead, they are all certainly indicators of potential danger. Unfortunately, there are no magic formulas to tell you when it’s time to brush up that CSV. Ultimately though it’s important for you to remember that the loyalty of days gone by worked because it was “mutually exchanged.” While being loyal to an employer who “has your back,” challenges you with new opportunities and offers fair compensation can be an outstanding career move, offering the same loyalty to an employer who doesn’t return the favor can be a devastating mistake.

Bottom line: If you don’t trust your employer (or even the leadership!), then chances are it’s time to move along while you are in control of the process…and your career!

I’d love to hear from you. Do you feel your employer automatically deserves loyalty or should it be earned?