Fading fidelity: Employees place less emphasis on loyalty to job, company

CareerBuilder

The dramatic job exit is a thing of beauty.

You know the ones -- the fed-up employee leaving in a verbal storm of pent-up anger and "I'll-show-you!" expletives; the let-go worker screaming "you can't fire me! I quit!," as he walks out of his boss' office; the box-carrying staffer who unleashes a soft-spoken but devastating farewell on her way out of the office.

In reality, most job exits are much more subtle -- an emailed letter of resignation; a no-nonsense, somber two-week notice; a mutually agreed-upon departure. Let's face it, when most employees quit, there isn't exactly a running soundtrack of "Take this Job and Shove It," Johnny Paycheck's 1977 country-music anthem for disgruntled workers everywhere, playing in the background.

That's because most employees choose to leave their jobs for compounded reasons, which can include years of small-percentage raises, changes in management or increasing disinterest in their work. "Quitting a job is usually a pretty boring act," says Peter Blackwell, a career consultant in New York City. "It's not about burning bridges and getting even. It's about making a move that benefits you as an employee, so the less fireworks, the better."

Blackwell says an increasingly common reason for leaving companies has little to do with raises or workload. In fact, Blackwell says, people often leave jobs because they can't find any reason to stay. "It's more about loyalty," he says. "Today's employees feel less attached to their companies. They think their employer is blasé about them so they, in turn, are blasé about their employer."

Loyal no more

Shadd Weber, a former job analyst with the U.S. Department of Labor, agrees that job loyalty is a thing of the past. "Not only does switching jobs help you stay focused and motivated, but it can also bring you more money," says Weber.

While Weber admits his scenario applies more to white-collar workers than those working in labor, he says that with the vastly improved job market over the past decade, employees are likely to find new opportunities that can increase their salaries by as much as 10 percent. "People leave jobs to make more money, but they also are motivated by different reasons," he says. "They may feel like they've been left behind when their company promotes others; they may feel like they don't get the respect they deserve from their supervisors and co-workers; and in some cases, they may have personality clashes with the people they work with. All are legitimate reasons to leave. But people will put up with those types of scenarios if they know they can make more money."

Weber admits that job stability had recently fallen out of fashion as a reason to stick with a job that may not suit you because employees knew there were other opportunities out there. The recent federal shutdown combined with continued layoffs by successful companies for reasons other than a loss in market share or revenue -- "unexplainable reasons to the average worker, even if they make sense to the company's bottom line," he says -- makes Weber think the job-security pendulum may be swinging the other way.

"Look, if you're starting a family or are interested in living a lifestyle that includes travel, a great place to live and some of the finer things in life, then you'll be less likely to want to pick up and move every two or three years. You'll want the security that comes with knowing you can hang on to a job for many years and continue to make a decent living," he says.

Hello, goodbye

Jane McCarthy has been working in corporate communications since she was 24 years old. Now 59, the Louisville, Kentucky, resident says when she started with United Parcel Service in Atlanta in 1984, she realized she was filling a need most companies didn't even realize they had. "And when email took off, regular communications with employees became more pronounced, so companies were looking for people to help them do that."

As a result, McCarthy says she changed jobs often, moving to Atlanta to Orlando, Miami, Charlotte, back to Atlanta, on to Memphis, Chicago, Salt Lake City, Omaha and finally, to Louisville. "I'd say I've done OK financially but 10 moves in 30 years can take its toll," McCarthy says. "I retired at the end of last year to take care of my mother, who now stays with me, and still can't decide where I want to live. I feel like I never stayed long enough in one city to put down roots."

Still, McCarthy says she doesn't regret moving for different jobs, even though she admits many of her moves weren't to improve her situation. "I'm kind of a free spirit who gets easily bored with where I work and where I live so if I could find a new job with equal or better pay, as soon as I got restless, I jumped at it," she says.

Today, McCarthy admits she sometimes wonders what might have happened had she stayed with one of her initial employers. "Unless you're in upper management, you're going to either make lateral moves with the hope of getting a promotion or you'll get a job that's one level up from your current job, and I've found that a job that's one level up from where you are is basically the same job," she says.

Had she stayed in one place longer, McCarthy feels like she would have had the chance to move into senior management. "I was very good at my job, but I worked a lot in the shadows. When you're new, that's what happens," she says. "When you're new, you're competing for promotions with people who've been there for years. It's like running a race. If you start two miles behind someone in a marathon and you're both good runners, it's going to be tough to catch up."

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