Of course, this eventually always comes down to a decision for the individual to make but it is a very real question, dilemma even, that faces most professionals at some time in their career and can cause serious heartache. This topic is probably at its most heightened for people making their first career move as they are much more likely to feel the ‘guilt’ of leaving an employer after having been given their first opportunity or after having been trained and had courses paid for, but it can be an issue for anybody at any time. To be fair, if you have given 100% to an employer there should be no reason why you should feel guilt about leaving them. Indeed, in the majority of cases, once you have overcome the psychological hurdle of handing in your notice, most employers will give you their blessing, even though they may be sorry to see you go, as most of them will have been in the same situation themselves at some point in the career and so will be understanding. Additionally, many employers run alumni schemes and would be quite happy to have you back in the future if you have given good service. Reverse the situation and you will also find that if your employer needed to make you redundant there would unlikely be any feeling of guilt, rather a colder corporate ‘business is business’ decision from their side.
There are undoubtedly instances whereby employers may take advantage of your loyalty, for example reigning in a promotion or a salary rise in the knowledge that you won’t complain or rock the boat but this can cause resentment which in turn is hardly likely to improve your performance. It’s not good to chop and change but neither is it good to stagnate but it’s often easier to stay than to go, especially if you are change-averse and enjoy familiarity. Displaying loyalty can be sometimes beneficial and sometimes detrimental to you career, in the same way that displaying a mercenary attitude can advance or hinder your progress. In another situation, you may find your nose put out by the fact that your employer gives better terms to a new joiner in order to engage their services in a competitive market and this too can rankle. Ultimately, the reality is that you should be constantly evaluating your position in relation to the market place. If it’s clear you can get where you want to be by staying put then stay, otherwise don’t let loyalty cloud your judgment.
Loyalty should be rewarded and where it is great things can happen but where it isn’t you need to be aware and act accordingly.