Five Ways Your Loyalty To Your Job Can Hurt You

Five Ways Your Loyalty To Your Job Can Hurt You
Five Ways Your Loyalty To Your Job Can Hurt You

We are living in a turbulent time in the history of work and employment. Because we are in the middle of the blender as it spins, trying not to get chopped into bits by its blades, it can be difficult for us to see the big picture.

Long-term employment has already vanished, as has medium-term employment. Our time at each new job is getting shorter and shorter. To complicate matters further, the longer you stay at a job, the less marketable you become.

It’s difficult to explain why your ninth year at a certain job taught you fresh and great things that you hadn’t already learned in your first through eighth years.

We are all entrepreneurs now, whether we work for ourselves or for someone else. For decades we were told to be loyal to our jobs and our employers.

Loyalty was a big part of what our employers valued back then. You could get promoted and do very well with an organization because of your loyalty, along with your hard work.

Nowadays employee loyalty can feel like a cruel joke. You can be incredibly loyal to your employer, even working nights and weekends for years, and still be tossed out the door the minute the wind changes and they don’t need you anymore.

Our friend Karen got laid off after 20 years with her company. Her boss’ boss had the nerve to tell Karen on her last day, “At least we trained you well to get another job.”

Karen nearly bit her tongue in half because she desperately wanted to say, “I have not learned anything new on this job since 2003” but she didn’t speak. What would be the point? Her boss’ boss was not interested in hearing what Karen had to say.

People in Karen’s boss’ boss’ position justify themselves. They convince themselves that by cutting personnel and increasing the task on the remaining employees, they are merely acting like responsible businessmen and not cruel individuals.

We cannot help them. They have to look at themselves in the mirror every morning. You are on your own path!

Your loyalty to your employer should be a wholly good thing, but it may be a poor investment of your energy and can even hurt you professionally and personal.

You Turn Into Wallpaper

When you are always at work or always reachable outside of work, your incredible effort stops being exceptional. Your personal time devoted to work is taken for granted at that point.

Everybody you work with is used to seeing you killing yourself for the job, and they don’t think about it anymore. Your tireless work ethic isn’t valued.

Your value to your employer is the foundation of your employment. If you don’t value your contribution, such that you feel you need to spend every waking hour proving yourself, your employer won’t value your talents either.

If they think of you are easily replaceable — a judgment that may be unfair, but may be reinforced by your failure to value your own work — that’s one more reason to let you go when the purse strings get tight. It’s one more reason to give you a tiny pay increase at the end of the year, or none at all. You have to value your contribution to your job enough to dole it out judiciously!

If your brand at work becomes “Ask me when you need anything, and I’ll say yes!” then you’re preventing anyone from seeing you as the talented, creative and brilliant thought leader you are. “Go ahead and mistreat me — I’ll take it” is the opposite of a mojo-fueled self-image.

You Pass Up Opportunities

Your loyalty to your boss may cause you to pass up other job opportunities. It is easy to tell yourself, “My boss really needs me” and immediately to say, “No thanks!” to the recruiter who calls you or to a job opportunity that falls into your lap. It is easy to convince yourself that you are irreplaceable at work, even when no one else has suggested that you might be.

Your path is your priority — not pleasing your boss or even being his or her right-hand person. What good will it do you to be your boss’ right-hand person if you don’t see a path ahead that is fun, exciting and flame-growing for you? It’s your right to do the sort of work you choose, for the people you choose.

Don’t close your eyes to new opportunities on the pretense that you must be loyal to the people you work for now. Would they pass up an opportunity to automate or outsource your job out of loyalty to you, if automating or outsourcing your job would make the company more money?

You Fall Asleep

When you feel that your services are essential to your employer’s or your department’s success, you can easily fall asleep and forget about the world outside your cubicle walls. When you fall asleep on your career, you don’t ask the questions we all need to ask ourselves once or twice per year:

• What do I want from my career?

• Is this job taking me in the right direction?

• Have I learned anything important and marketable over the past 12 months?

• Am I paid what I am worth here? Do I know what my skills are worth?

• What is the next career step for me? Can I take that step in this company, or do I have to move on?

Don’t fall asleep on your career! In particular, don’t let misguided loyalty put you to sleep. A job is based on a business transaction. Your boss, however sweet in nature, is not your friend. If your boss really needed your services for some specific period of time into the future, he or she would have given you an employment contract to nail your services down.

If that hasn’t happened, your loyalty is going to waste.

You Miss Cues

We heard from Nicolas, who said, “I was so loyal to my company that it’s embarrassing to remember it. I was crazy loyal. I logged into the work network at least ten times on any given weekend to check on the numbers. I volunteered for every special project because I cared so much about helping the company succeed.

“I completely lost sight of the culture in my company. More and more people were getting dissatisfied and leaving. My boss said, ‘Those people are just malcontents’ and I said, ‘Yeah, those people are malcontents.’ I just bought the whole party line. I didn’t ask for a raise because supposedly the division wasn’t making money, but we actually were making money. I had the numbers at my fingertips. I rationalized. My boss said they were making investments in software and I was like ‘Yeah, they’re investing in software.’

“I got laid off and when I did, about 30 of my co-workers said to me, ‘Nicolas, couldn’t you see that your department was on the chopping block for months?’ I couldn’t see it. I had blinders on. I believed everything my boss said. When he told me I was laid off, I couldn’t take in it at first. I thought he was kidding. I thought it was literally impossible that they would let me go, but they did.”

Others See You As A Company Man Or Woman

One reason Nicolas missed dozens of clues about the impending dissolution of his department was that the only people he talked to were other “loyalists” who, like Nick, were out of touch about the company’s true challenges. He was too afraid of the consequences of asking the question “What if my job went away?” to dwell on or even consider that possibility.

Instead, Nicolas devoted himself to working so hard and earning so many brownie points that no matter what happened, his company would have to keep him on!

That’s what Nicolas told himself, but it didn’t work out that way. Six months after he left the company, Nick said, “I didn’t even realize that my co-workers saw me as a boot licker and our manager’s lapdog. It was true! I didn’t see it. I thought that working every night and day and pleasing my boss in every imaginable way would help me, but I was so wrong. I went overboard. Now I’m friends with some of my co-workers that I called ‘malcontents’ before. Isn’t it funny how life teaches us?”

It is funny, but I don’t want you to get caught in the same trap that got sprung on Nick when he thought the cheese was in reach. Take care of yourself, your loved ones and your own career first. Take care of your workmates second, and take care of your company and its needs third.

You have a path to follow. Lots of people and organizations will cross your path and your mission is to walk with each of them as long as your paths stay in parallel. When it’s time to veer off in another direction, you’ll take the next exit and keep on moving down your own path. Save your loyalty for your friends, family and animals!