Over the years I’ve read a lot of articles about why people leave companies. These often lack perspective. They don’t explain at all why people remain at companies – which is an equally important way to gauge how well a company attends to its people. You might think that the exact opposite of what forces employees to leave might be what compels others to stay. In some cases that is right, but in others, it isn’t.
The easy answer as to why people remain in a company is loyalty. Where does loyalty come from? Companies have been trying to crack that nut for some time. Most never will because why they bemoan that they want/expect loyalty; they are, at the same time, sending jobs overseas or simply laying people off. Welcome to the dichotomy of corporate culture!
Consider, if you will; having a job is the same as a personal relationship. Over time, there is a give and take, a sense of trust, an understanding of each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Some people have put in so much time and effort in their careers they feel they owe their organization something back. That sense of obligation is loyalty – and it is often a powerful motivator for people to stay where they are at.
So where does loyalty come from. Here are my suggested reasons that most employees stay at their organizations and what are the root causes of an employees’ concept of loyalty:
They believe their work makes a difference. This is different than job satisfaction. This is knowing that their contribution to the organization has impact. It’s not about being happy with your work – It is about knowing you are moving the proverbial needle.
The rewards/recognition match the work contribution. People tend to remain with companies where they are recognized for the work they do in proportion to the value of that work. Recognition can come in a lot of different forms. Nothing demoralizes people more when the rewards go to the wrong people or are disproportional to the contribution. Sometimes the rewards are a good salary, one that might make it difficult for you to consider moving to a new organization.
They have friends at work. The truth be told, if you have good dependable work friends, you are less likely to leave. As much as I bitch about work, I have the distinction of working with some of the best people in the industry and that makes it far more tolerable.
They are comfortable with the work they do. In this scenario, you know your job well and do it well. Starting somewhere else will potentially change that.
Employees are recognized as experts in their field. Being at the top of your game in one organization does not necessarily transfer to another company should you move. To your new colleagues, you are “the new person,” and you have to expend considerable time and effort to reestablish yourself. It can be a daunting task that forces you to the easy choice – remain where you are.
Their manager doesn’t suck. One of the top reasons people leave organizations is their manager is a dick/dickette. You don’t need a stellar manager, just one that isn’t a micromanaging asshat. There are those rare instances though where you get a manager who is solid, good, understands what motivates you and does those things, etc. Going to another organization and you may be spinning the managerial roulette wheel and risking getting a complete and utter moron.
They can’t leave because of age, benefits, or life situation. Anyone that believes there is no age discrimination in business is delusional. Once you cross the threshold of 50 years of age, you are caught in a vice. On one side, is the fact that companies won’t hire you because of your age. On the other side is the concern that you might impact your pension, or change benefits that would be negative to your lifestyle. What if you have workplace flexibility and can work for home X number of days a week? Perhaps your new employer won’t support that – which necessitates a lifestyle change. Employees are pinched to the point where you resist thoughts of changing jobs as a result of these factors.
They believe the organization does what it says it does. Companies claim they act and behave one way and often do quite the opposite. That division between the public view and reality is often a contributing factor for employees the leave. Counter to that, if your organization behaves in a manner consistent with what it says it is in business for, you tend to want to continue to be a part of that company.
Fear of not fitting in at a new company. I liken this to “the devil you know vs. the one you don’t.” I saw a job posting on Linkedin the other day and it immediately told me I would not fit in at their organization. The images the company had on their ad and web site showed only people in their mid-20’s, dressed very casual, and a wide diversity – to the point where an older white male would significantly stand out in their company. If those images realistically represented that company, I would never apply there because I know I won’t fit in. That sentiment is not that rare with people. Every organization is like a country – it has its own culture, traditions, language, etc. The fear of not being able to adapt to these is often enough to compel an employee to stay.
They harbor the illusion of advancement. The classic carrot that management dangles before us at one point or another, “We are looking at you in terms of a possible promotion.” This ever-elusive enticement is often just enough to compel people to remain in their job. “If I can put in one more year, maybe this year I will get that job.”
Immunity to the hypocrisy/chaos. There is a lot of bullshit that goes on in offices – reorgs, layoffs, outsourcing, etc. If you get caught up in that chaos, it helps motivate you to look for employment elsewhere. Likewise if you can tune out all of these threatening distractions and focus on what you love about your job, you are often more willing to remain.
Management leaves them alone. Sometimes flying under the radar makes your life easier. If you are not motivated by advancement, just keeping your head down is an option. Other times management just does the right thing, and lets people do their jobs with minimal interference. This behavior can foster a sense of loyalty. For many people, the fact that their management is not interfering permits them a chance to shine.
Obviously, if you like more of my mindless ramblings, you can check out my book, Business Rules: A Cynic’s Guide to the Corporate Overlords…or my other blog posts under business.