A Job is a Business Transaction – You don’t Owe Them “Loyalty”

I recently saw someone that I know post that they look suspiciously at people with short resume entries. He then went on about how he just “knows” that they won’t stick around and that he’ll expend time and emotional energy to teach them, only to have them abandon him (not the word he used, but the intent was there).

The hilarious part of this, to me, is that I know for a fact that most of his engagements with companies have been under two years, so not only is he being ridiculous about this, he’s being a hypocrite.

Let’s get real for a minute and dig into this a little, shall we?

Your job is a business transaction. You are literally trading your time, effort, and experience to a company in exchange for a paycheck. You aren’t joining a “family” and you aren’t selling yourself into bondage or serfdom.

That’s not to say that you can’t have emotional attachments of friendship to the people you work with, but you shouldn’t have them to the company because they most certainly won’t have it for you. One-sided emotional relationships are ripe for abuse (and that’s exactly what some really bad companies foster and exploit).

Instead of operating from a sense of loyalty, operate from a sense of enlightened self-interest.

When your job, which is a business transaction, is no longer in the best interest of both parties, it’s time to start considering alternatives. A company won’t hesitate to show you the door when they decide it’s in their best interest to let you go. You need to look at your current job the same way.

It could be that your raises haven’t kept pace with the increase in salaries in the market. It could be that you aren’t able to advance where you currently are. It could be that you aren’t learning and growing your skills as much as you think you should. It could even be that every day feels like an endless slog and you need a change.

Any of these (and more) are completely valid reasons to leave one position for another one. Don’t let anyone try to guilt trip you into staying someplace that it isn’t in your best interest to be.

As for bosses complaining about the time and effort they spent to grow you in your current position –that’s part of their job. It’s literally part of the deal that most of us make when we sign the contract – we get paid to provide value and, in the course of our job, we get to learn new things and grow our skills.

Not only is it part of the deal, it’s in the best interest of the company to help you learn and grow. Having a technical member of staff who doesn’t learn new things over the course of their time at a company is a recipe for disaster for that company. Don’t let them try to act like they’re doing you a favor by letting you stretch yourself.

I’ve been doing this job for a week or two at this point (okay, it’s been something over 20 years now, but who’s counting) and I have to tell you that I’m legitimately happy for my mentees and the people who work under me if they go somewhere else as the next step in their journey.

It may be rough for my team in the short term, but we’ll manage. As a general rule, nobody will die if a person leaves your team – and if a business fails because of someone leaving, well… that’s a whole other problem (and also not the fault or concern of the person leaving).

In the end, hopefully we had a good time working with each other, learned new things all around, and came out of the deal better than when we went in. We’ve both also increased our networks and can use that to not only help ourselves, but also help others by leveraging the relationships we have.

I accept that anyone I hire will eventually move on from the company I’m at. I also accept that some day I will move on too. It’s a fact of both life and business – situations and priorities change and you shouldn’t have to feel misplaced loyalty to an organization that won’t love you back. Your loyalty is best placed with yourself, your friends, and family (either by blood or by bond).

Anyone who thinks that you owe them because they hired you is someone that’s sending off both massive red flags and showing a lot of insecurity.

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