Why being too loyal to your employer won't pay off for you or them

Lydia Smith
·Writer, Yahoo Finance UK
·3 min read
Elevated View Of A Male Manager Shaking Hands With Female Applicant At Workplace
A UK worker will change employer every five years on average, according to research. Photo: Getty

The traditional idea of company loyalty no longer exists. Fifty years ago, it was common to be hired by a firm and work your way up in the business. In return for 40 years of service, you would retire at 65 and receive a nice present and a pension.

Times have changed, however. Although you may stay in your first job for a few years, it’s likely you will move on to new pastures after a while — and continue job hopping every few years.

A UK worker will change employer every five years on average, according to research by life insurance firm LV=. In the US, the median number of years that wage and salary workers have worked for their current employer is currently 4.6 years, according to an Economic News Release.

The rise of the gig economy means fewer long-term contracts and more ad hoc work too, as well as more people turning to self-employment. But is the loss of ‘company loyalty’ such a bad thing?

Staying put may mean earning less

There are plenty of reasons why you might stay in one job for longer than you intended. At the moment, changing jobs simply isn’t an option in the current economy — and remaining in your position provides some stability.

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However, staying in your job simply to be loyal to the company may not pay off financially, research has shown. In 2014, a Forbes report suggested that staying employed at the same company for over two years on average will mean you earn less over your lifetime by 50% or more. This might be a conservative estimate too.

A lot of businesses provide larger financial incentives to new hires too, rather than upping the pay of existing employees. According to the US financial services provider Nomura, people who changed jobs earned about 1% more year-over-year than stayers. Although this seems like a minimal amount in lost wages, it adds up over the course of your career.

Being too comfortable isn’t a good thing

Money isn’t the only reason we change jobs. When we start at a new company, we’re often seeking better opportunities and a chance to develop our skills too.

Although this might be possible through an internal promotion, working for different employers is likely to make you more adaptable and give you more varied experience. Not only does this benefit your career, but your employer’s too.

Staying for a decade or more at a job may be a positive thing if you are gaining seniority, building on your skills and developing managerial responsibilities that give you more clout in the company. But sticking to one company without advancing isn’t going to do you or any of your future employers any favours.

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While being comfortable in your job is usually a good thing, it can sometimes work against you. When you know what you are doing, you’re good at it and you feel loyal to your company, you stop seeking new opportunities and chances to develop new skills.

Even if you feel secure in your job too, you never know what could happen. After ten years of hard work, you may find yourself facing redundancy in an economic downturn — and having to think twice about your career decisions and available opportunities. No matter how loyal you’ve been to your employer, they may still choose to protect themselves instead of you.