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  • Lokajit Tikayatray

Employee Loyalty Myth: The Sugarcoated Lie We’ve All Embraced

A man sitting on the staircase thinking

In recent times, especially during economic downturns, many people have begun to question the idea of loyalty to their companies. They wonder why they should be loyal when companies don’t always return the favor.

When businesses face financial troubles, they often let go of employees to save money.

This has been evident during recent recessionary periods, with thousands of employees losing their jobs, often without warning.

As a result, there is growing skepticism surrounding the notion of loyalty.

Many individuals attribute the long tenure of employees to loyalty toward their employer. The idea is that those who remain with a company for an extended period do so because of their loyalty.

But is loyalty the real reason, or are other factors keeping people in the same jobs for many years?

In my two decades of software career, I have come across all sorts of reasons why people continue in the same company for a long time. Most of these reasons have nothing to do with their loyalty to the company.

Let’s look into a few of these reasons in detail that busts the employee loyalty myth. You can add your experience to it and decide whether loyalty is really the driving force behind these decisions.

The Comfort of Familiarity

I had a friend who was good at his work. He used to finish the assigned tasks fast and then spend the rest of the time idling around. It impacted his career growth as there was little scope for him to grow within the team.

Whenever I asked him why he does not change his job where his talent can be better utilized for his growth, he would say he likes the comfort at his current workplace.

He had spent enough time in the team and the application to be confident he could handle any situation. He also knew whom he could reach out to for specific issues. He was happy to wake up daily, knowing what he would do at the office.

In summary, he liked his days going by without undue pressure and anxiety due to unknowns. For him, it was not so much loyalty that kept him in the company but the prospect of maintaining the status quo.

It is essential to acknowledge the role familiarity plays in influencing an individual’s decision to stay in their current job. Over time, employees develop a sense of comfort in their work environment.

This stems from their understanding of the company culture, established relationships with colleagues, and a clear grasp of their job responsibilities.

Such familiarity level can be reassuring and may lead some employees to prefer staying with their current employer rather than venturing into unknown territory.

The Pros Outweigh the Cons

a balance with balls on both side

Every job has its positives and negatives. Employees typically weigh the pros and cons before deciding whether to stay or move on.

In many cases, employees continue in their current roles as the benefits they derive from their job outweigh the drawbacks. These benefits could include a competitive salary, good work-life balance, opportunities for growth, a supportive team, or personal commitments.

If the overall experience is positive, employees are likelier to stay, regardless of their loyalty to the company.

I know people who have spent years in slow-growth positions because of their outside-office responsibilities.

One of my previous colleagues resigned after working for the company for over five years. He did not have a matching growth during his tenure compared to his talent.

He explained his perspective when I asked him what made him stay for so many years without much growth.

The said person got married a few months after he joined the company. Soon he had a baby. He took care of bringing up his child, and now that the kid started going to preschool, he plans to focus back on his career.

For him, the flexibility of taking care of his commitments outweighed a few years of less-than-expected career progression.

The Perceived Absence of Better Opportunities

While switching my first job, I was looking to change my work location. It was during the 2008–09 recession. During those times, companies mostly ask to come and give the final interview round in person.

It was not easy to frequently travel to a different city for an interview. On top of it, the recession made it even more challenging to find the right opportunities.

It took some time for me to find a suitable position in the destination city.

Sometimes, employees stay with their current employer because they have not found a better opportunity elsewhere. It does not mean they are not job hunting or open to change.

The lack of opportunity can be due to market conditions. Or, it can be because the person cannot clear interviews for their desired positions.

This situation does not indicate loyalty. Instead, it reflects the competitive job market and the employees’ need to make the best choice for their career advancement.

The Fear of Change

The fear of change often influences an employee’s decision to stay with their current employer. It can be scary to change a job. It gets even more challenging if the employee has become comfortable with their current position.

I have come across many professionals who are hesitant to switch jobs due to the fear of change. They have worked for the same organization for several years and are accustomed to their work environment.

For them moving out would mean starting everything from scratch — making new connections, learning new roles, and so on.

Although they might get better job opportunities in a different company, the fear of change keeps them at bay.

Sometimes, people stay due to a lack of confidence in their abilities. They are unsure if they can handle a new job’s workload or learning curve. This is true, especially for experienced employees with much less appetite for learning new things.

Ultimately, each individual weighs their options and decides what is best for them — staying with their current employer or taking the risk to move on to something different.

In these cases, the decision to stay has less to do with loyalty and more with a natural aversion to change.

The Role of Loyalty in Employee Retention

While it is true that loyalty may not be the primary reason for employees staying in a company, it would be unfair to dismiss its role altogether.

Loyalty can be a powerful motivator, especially for those who feel a strong sense of belonging and commitment to their organization.

This loyalty can manifest in various ways, such as dedication to the company's mission, a willingness to go the extra mile to achieve success, and a sense of pride in the organization's achievements.

In these cases, loyalty might indeed play a role in an employee's decision to stay.

Final Thoughts on Employee Loyalty Myth

Whether it is loyalty or other factors, there are significant benefits to staying in a company for years. It makes sense to stay longer in the job if it meets most of your needs from a career.

However, if a person says they are unhappy with their job but continue to be in the company just because of their loyalty, I suggest they dig deeper into their true motive.

Loyalty should not come at the cost of personal and career growth. After all, it is a person’s right to make the best decision for their future.

I believe— your career is your responsibility. Your company and the leaders can enable you to achieve what you want. But you are responsible for taking the necessary actions for your growth.

And if that means moving to a place with better opportunities, then so be it.

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