In the past few weeks, I have heard two guest speakers at McGill’s School of Information Studies who have gotten me thinking about the idea of organizational loyalty. Some people of a certain generation (usually grandparents) boast of their life-time dedication to a particular employer/organization. We hear about “30 years of loyal service” and companies creating loyalty incentives to hold on to experienced workers. I actually work with a library assistant who has been at McGill Libraries for 40 years. In her case, the library is trying to offer her a package to get her to leave but she doesn’t want to, she enjoys her job too much! However, it is obvious to me that less and less people, especially professionals, are interested in the idea of being loyal to a single company for too long and certainly not for their whole careers.
One perspective that often keeps people at the same job over time is that it feels kind of cheap to pick up and leave an organization after an employer dedicates time and resources into an employee’s professional development. It’s almost like a slap in the face to that employer for the employee to then take elsewhere their valuable experience and skills learned.
One guest speaker told us how she left her job where she was becoming increasingly unhappy even after her employer had paid to send her to a conference and had big projects for her in the organization. She wanted to stay on good terms with her employer because they had developed a friendship but, understandably, he took it hard when she told him she was leaving. Tough situation! Although hopefully this seems like a no-brainer to most people, if you are unhappy at a job then it’s in your best interests to find another job where you will be happy.
However, a different perspective that our second guest speaker brought up is the idea of never staying too long at one organization even if you are happy with your job. This approach is a bit more difficult to appreciate and I’m sure it will leave people divided. Our guest speaker explained that although she loved and was very comfortable at one library where she worked for 19 years, she felt that she stayed there too long. Her argument was that as professionals we want to continually grow and learn new things which becomes difficult when we grow too comfortable with the status quo at one particular workplace.
We might attribute this to different personality-types. Some people love and need stability in their lives, whereas other people crave adventure and new experiences. I enjoy stability but I can appreciate the need for change in order to stimulate continual professional and personal growth. When I left my job as educational and institutional representative at La Maison Anglaise et Internationale, I had been working there for 4 years. I liked my job, my boss, and my colleagues but I knew that I did not want to stay there forever and coming back to school to do a MLIS seemed like the right choice. I do not regret for one second this change and I know that I am growing more as a person by gaining new knowledge and experiences.
What about you? Can you envision yourself staying loyal to one organization for 10, 20, 30 years? Also, from an employer’s perspective, what type of incentives could you offer to employees who you value and want to retain?