Why Employee Loyalty Can Be Overrated

Why Employee Loyalty Can Be Overrated
Why Employee Loyalty Can Be Overrated

“In most instances, loyalty is regarded as a virtue: among friends, family, and football fans. Employee loyalty, on the other hand, is more complicated.

It is more transactional in nature. Friends don’t give each other performance appraisals or terminate each other for financial reasons. It has a lower reciprocity.

A worker may feel attachment to a company, whereas the company may feel nothing. As a result, employees frequently feel more devoted to team members and individual leaders than to their organizations. And too much of it can be costly.

Too much loyalty can be harmful to employees in other ways. Matthew Stanley of Duke University and his co-authors published a study earlier this year that evaluated how supervisors felt about loyal employees.

The researchers questioned supervisors if they would be prepared to ask a hypothetical employee named John to work unpaid overtime.

If John was described as loyal, his supervisors were more willing to give him more work. The opposite was also true: employees who did more labor for no pay were more likely to be rated as loyal by supervisors.

Remember, dogs are KNOWN for their loyalty, not for their brains.

Matthew Stanley of Duke University

Keep employee loyalty in check. Regardless of your degree, chances are there are various opportunities available that you haven’t considered. Of course we all love a stable job where we know the people, the company, and what to expect from day-to-day.

However, being too loyal or too comfortable may prevent you from pursuing new opportunities.

Maintain a healthy balance between employee loyalty and your career goals. A manager’s aim is to maximize profit, and hence to develop their own business.

Similarly, while loyalty is admirable, your top priority should be to advance your career. Even the best companies cannot provide you with an infinite number of possibilities to help you attain your full potential. Even if they wanted to, it isn’t feasible.

Employee loyalty is overrated, and it should not be used to determine your career path. Define where you want to go and what you want to do, then take the required actions to get there.

After all, your career is your obligation, and you must put it first.

Employees are often more loyal to those around them — their supervisor, their colleagues, and possibly their clients.” These employees have a sense of professionalism — and commitment — to their work rather than to the organization.

Management Professor, Matthew Bidwill

Employers have the potential to develop their relationships with their employees.

Loyalty vs. engagement

It’s pretty clear: In today’s workplace, loyalty and engagement are two different things.

Study after study has shown what makes people stay with their current employer:

  • interesting, challenging work
  • opportunities for advancement and learning
  • collegial workforce – Collegial is an adjective describing a work environment where responsibility and authority is shared equally by colleagues. You know you work in a collegial environment when your co-workers smile at you, and you don’t have to hide from your supervisor.
  • fair compensation
  • a respected manager
  • recognition for accomplishment
  • feeling a valued member of a team
  • a substantial benefits package
  • the feeling their work “makes a difference,” and overall pride in the company’s mission and its products.

Loyalty doesn’t seem to play a very big role on that wish list.

What your managers can do

There is certainly a wide range of ideas on how managers should motivate, develop, and reward people – and make them want to stay.

But many of these theories stress the nuts and bolts of manager behavior – as in, “you need to praise at least three employees in your department every day.”

That approach tends to overlook the key issue: What do employees want from their job on an emotional level?

Here’s a rundown of the things the experts say resonate most with employees — and make them want to stick around:

  • Clear expectations. Pretty simple: Workers want to know exactly what they’re responsible for, and what they’ll be judged on.
  • A sense of control. Employees aren’t robots. They need to feel they have the power to decide how their jobs can be completed — and the freedom to suggest how tasks can be simplified or streamlined.
  • Feeling they’re “in the loop.” Employees not only wish to know – and have input on – what’s going on in their department, but what’s happening in the business as a whole. And they want to be secure in their understanding of how what they do on a day-to-day basis fits into the overall operation — now and in the future.
  • Room to grow. These include potential promotions, extra training, learning new skills and the possibility of using those new skills in a different area of the company.
  • Recognition. Everyone wants to believe their extra effort won’t go unnoticed — or unrewarded.
  • Leadership. Employees want to be led by people they trust. And the people they trust are those who value workers’ contributions, recognize and accept differences in people and act with employees’ best interests in mind.

Employee loyalty can be great. Businesses want employees that are dedicated to them, are willing to go above and beyond, and won’t jump ship to a competitor at the drop of a hat. Employees want to feel as though they belong and that the company is worth giving some of their limited time on Earth to. Employees who stay put because they feel invested in their company rather than because they haven’t received a better offer are more likely to be satisfied with their jobs and perform better overall.

However, choosing loyalty at work is a personal choice, not a moral one. It should be conditional on receiving good treatment, not a hard-to-break habit. Stay put because you enjoy it, not because leaving would be wrong.