toxic jobs

Personal stories about toxic jobs and workplace woes.

February 21, 2008

job loyalty should be reciprocal

Vesna is an executive employment consultant - actually a headhunter - and at 46 she earns forty-four times the salary she once earned - well above the six-figure bracket. She attributes her success to being loyal to herself, totally in charge of her life.

Vesna admits that her success has probably a lot to do with the fact that she’s divorced and her kids are now grown up and living independently. Without a husband and kids wanting attention, her loyalties are focused.

"The biggest problem in workplaces these days," confides Vesna, "is the breakdown in the time-honored tradition of reciprocal loyalty between employer and employee."

"Nowadays," says Vesna, "most employers put profit way ahead of the duty of care they once felt towards employees, and in this sort of climate employees who remain loyal to companies are selling themselves short and setting themselves up for a bitter lay-off down the line."

"Loyalty, like most of the higher human traits, is losing relevance in today's workplace," says Vesna. "When profits are down, staff members get shown the door."

Very rarely will companies shoulder a drop in profits in order to retain staff. Even rarer is the managing director who will take a pay cut in order to retain the services of a loyal employee.

"When one does," laughs Vesna, "it usually makes front-page news!"

"Basically," confides Vesna, "if you are not taking charge of your career and keeping a close watch on the economy you will not prosper in the workplace. Your first loyalty is to yourself and those who depend upon your income."

Vesna believes that too many people, young and old, fall into the trap of thinking that because they have been with a company for a considerable length of time that their loyalty will be rewarded when the going gets tough.

"It may be," says Vesna. "You may be one of the lucky employees who are retained, but your loyalty may have had nothing to do with that decision. Your good fortune may be simply due to the fact that you are not highly paid, and it would be cheaper to keep you than hire and re-train someone else further down the line when profits go up."

With more people in the global workforce than there are jobs to fill, Vesna believes that those in jobs tend to confuse loyalty with what is essentially a fear of losing their jobs.

In an employer's market there is very little reciprocal loyalty shown towards employees.

"When good workers are essentially a dime a dozen," says Vesna, "why would any employer fear losing staff?"

Vesna believes that for reciprocal loyalty to exist, there has to be equality and balance. A sense that I have what you need, and you have what I need. Very few people in jobs, or between jobs, can boast that they have as much clout as their employer or potential employer.

"However," enthuses Vesna, "when you start taking charge of your working life, you acquire a unique sense of loyalty to yourself that employers recognize and appreciate. They see an independent woman, a clever woman. They like that. It is how they run their business. They can relate to you. They know that you are likely to have another job in the wings long before they announce a downsizing. They know that you have your finger on the pulse of their business."

"Ironically," says Vesna, "it is the people who leave a job before the rot sets in that are more highly prized than the ones who stay to face the axe."

"In taking responsibility for your own career," explains Vesna, "you are not only assuring your own survival, but also exhibiting traits that employers appreciate."

This may seem contradictory when one of the stock interview questions is: "Why have you not stayed longer than a year [or whatever] at any job in the past 5 years?"

The generally acceptable view is that someone who job-hops is a bad risk, but Vesna believes that if you can give an honest and intelligent explanation for each of your job changes - and you not only left previous employers on good terms but secured good references as well - then you will be seen as someone with a flexible nature, capable of being loyal and reliable in a mutually beneficial workplace situation.

"In other words," says Vesna, "you will be seen as someone who is fully in charge of her career."

This is the type of employee 21st century employers want, and this is also the type of woman who ends up with a six-figure salary like Vesna.

This story first appeared as the ethics of job loyalty

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