About Careers and Company Loyalty: Don’t Get Too Comfortable

I got a few personal emails from my friends after my layoff announcement. Here’s one I got permission to share with you. There are many lessons here about careers and company loyalty:

Hi Jason,

The thing that just galls me about the layoff piece is this: good people take on personal energy to put into their job. They get invested in it because it aligns with what they want to be doing (passion or not). And companies and their management want us invested in what they are doing, where they are going.

And then the management changes direction. Executives have their contracts and parachutes; we’re lucky if we get severance. The dissonance between “our people are our most important asset” and “your last day is November 30th” is just tough to reconcile.

But the disillusionment of being invested in the plan, the goal, the work and then having it taken away has a particularly bad impact on our egos and self worth.

I’ve become highly cynical about Corporate America, for good reason. I look at corporate pronouncements with a detached, highly cynical eye (the one today was along the lines of “we’ve now completed our simplification of [company name removed] as we have now sold off x, x, and y”). I don’t buy into any direction the company provides, outside of what’s in it for me and recalculating my quarterly “how long will my job last” questionnaire.

It’s not team oriented at all, although I help my team. It’s highly narcissistic, even though I am not. My goal is to be highly employable, knowing job security doesn’t exist. You don’t get highly employable unless you are ruthless in how you handle your career and pay attention to what is happening at work. It has saved my bacon more than once.

Don’t know a way around that, though I wish I did.

Be well, my friend. Fight the good fight.

Cheers…[name removed]

This comes from someone I really respect, who understands careers in corporate in a way I could only imagine.

Careers and Company Loyalty… Ahem

Years ago I was talking to a SVP of People (a high level HR person) at a massive company (more than 100,000 employees) who was complaining that employees just aren’t loyal to companies anymore.

Uh, duh…. yah think????

careers and company loyalty still shocks people

I couldn’t believe that this person, who I’m sure based on her tenure and title, had at some points in her career been involved in terminating whole groups of people, could even think that we are a bunch lemurs who are clamoring to work at companies and give 110% loyalty, even though with a click of a mouse we could be in the poor house, with our careers devastated.

Okay, maybe that’s too heavy on the assumptions, but to hear an HR professional complain that loyalty towards a company is a thing of the past was indeed shocking. Who created this mess?

If we, employees, didn’t have to worry about our livelihood, how much more productive would we be?  You wouldn’t have to do employee satisfaction and engagement initiatives all the time if were didn’t have this dark cloud of BEING POOR over our heads. I’m not saying that we are entitled to wealth just because we have a job, but the unknown that comes from living in an “at-will” environment is taxing. It makes us wonder. And not matter how “great” you are, according to the “best places to work” surveys, if a better opportunity comes along in a company that hasn’t bought that designation, I might just take it.

Because YOU created this environment that helps me know that YOU do not care about me or my future. HR does not care. Management does not care. When it comes down to it, a decrease in employee loyalty has come because you eliminated any loyalty towards the employee.

And now we are left to fend for ourselves. That’s okay, I guess. It is, as they say, what it is.

But don’t come complaining to me that employees aren’t loyal anymore.

careers and company loyalty can cause complaints

Careers and Company Loyalty Are Topics You Can’t Ignore

Please, please help me spread this message about careers and company loyalty. Share this blog post. I’m not doing this to disparage companies, rather to help people think seriously and differently about their career management.

Careers and company loyalty have two very important aspects… one thing you should have a lot of control over, the other you don’t. You need to manage your career. You need to take care of yourself. You need to improve yourself, invest in your skills and your network, work on your personal brand, etc. That is career management and you should work on it the rest of your career.

The other part is the company loyalty part. This will vary from company to company, even boss to boss. You might be in the most amazing company now but then your boss leaves and you get the boss from hell. Then you’ll get a whole new perspective on careers and company loyalty. You may have been the most loyal team player but a new boss could change everything.

Please, take care of yourself. Have fun but don’t let your guard down. Stay loyal to your own career, which means invest in yourself. do an excellent job, but when it comes to careers and company loyalty you have an important job to do, and you can’t be ignorant about what’s happening around you.

careers and company loyalty is something you shouldn't ignore

3 thoughts on “About Careers and Company Loyalty: Don’t Get Too Comfortable”

  1. I agree with this 100%. Companies often feel that that it’s the responsibility of the employee to seek out their own job satisfaction while simultaneously fostering an environment of fear (losing the job, no growth opportunities, no personal or professional development, etc…). BUT, here’s the big question, how should a company address a major financial crisis or change in direction without the layoffs. Layoffs are part of the corporate environment so how can a company promote employee loyalty while still knowing that layoffs are a possibility?

  2. Great question Michael. I think there’s a big difference between a major financial crisis and a change in direction. A major financial crisis… let’s say a hurricane that wipes out a business and/or market… I get that. If the company goes away (Enron, anyone?) that is super sad for everyone… and the owners generally are in as much of a bad place as each employee.

    A change in direction… that’s different. Some companies that really do care about employees should plan, when they are planning their change in direction, how they will help their employees. It could be some kind of transition that is a lot more gentle than “see ya!” Or, it could be training the employees so they can help in the new direction. Some managers have made personal calls to their colleagues in other companies to help place employees in another company. I bet you can find evidence of managers or executives who get a nice severance package (I’ve talked to more than one executive who got a 1+ year severance… wowzers!).

    I will give allowance for what insurance companies call “an act of God” vs what I consider poor management. Hiring wrong, over-hiring, pulling back from strategic initiatives without respect to the lives that it affects and without considering how to soften the impact, etc.

    In this post I’m talking about poor management. I wasn’t even thinking about “act of God” level changes.

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