Progress vs Security: The Pros and Cons of Loyalty

by Mark

Image 2023 02 26 T09 57 50

​In our last post regarding Chinese New Year, we touched on several zodiac rabbit character traits, one of which was loyalty. At Ellwood Consulting, we often get asked about how loyalty is perceived in the market, so in this post, we aim to explain this in more detail.

What does loyalty really mean? Does loyalty boost your career or hold you back?

As usual, there are two sides to this topic, so let’s delve in and explore what it means to be loyal to an employer…


What is loyalty to an employer?

Loyalty is a trait we probably consider essential in any personal or professional relationship – nobody wants to think their co-workers will abandon them when needed or that their friend wont ‘have their backs’. However, in this post, we’ll be specifically referring to loyalty to an employer.


When we talk about loyalty to an employer, what we are referring to is sticking with employer through thick and thin, good times and (if need be) the bad times, for the longer-term. This loyalty means you are committed to the company and usually willing to go above and beyond to help the organisation achieve its goals. It involves being a team player, demonstrating dedication to your work, and being willing to take on additional responsibilities. Loyalty also means that you have a sense of pride and ownership in the company's success. All of which sounds very positive.


Advantages of loyalty to an employer

  1. Increased job security: Employers usually appreciate loyal employees and are more likely to retain them during layoffs or downsizing

  2. Career advancement: Being a loyal employee can mean you are more likely to be considered for promotions or other career advancing opportunities. Employers like to recognise commitment and dedication and reward accordingly with greater responsibility

  3. Professional development: By being loyal, you can also benefit from professional development opportunities such as training, mentoring, and coaching. Employers are more likely to invest in your growth and development, which can improve skills and increase your value in the job market – should the unthinkable happen and you have to leave.

So far, so ideal. Given the above then, it may sound surprising that the World Economic Forum stated recently that employee loyalty was falling – alluding to the Great Resignation we discussed at the time. Let’s take a look at the drawbacks:


Disadvantages of loyalty to an employer

  1. Stagnation: Being too loyal to an employer can also lead to career stagnation. You may become complacent in your current role, and the employer may not recognise your potential for growth and development. This can severely limit your opportunities for career advancement. This is particularly obvious if you have been at roughly the same level in the same firm for several years, and from an outside perspective, it looks as though you have been continually passed over for promotion. Usually, the assumption will be it’s because of you, not because of the employer’s failing.

  2. Limited perspective: Spending too long with a single company means that you’re not exploring other job opportunities or considering other companies. This can limit your perspective on employment as a whole, but also on your particular field and skills set. Especially at senior level, employers like to hire people who have seen different perspectives by being in different companies, giving them boarder experience of different ways to tackle problems.

  3. Exploitation: Some employers may take advantage of employees who are blindly loyal. They may give them more work or expect them to work longer hours without offering appropriate compensation. This can lead to burnout and can negatively impact their careers

So, clearly there is a balance to be struck here. You’ll want to be loyal enough to be invested in your work and motivated and utilised, given growth opportunities and a development plan. But you’ll also want to be sensitive to market conditions, possible career acceleration outside of your current firm and sensitive to when loyalty might be being abused.

Top tips for balancing loyalty and career advancement:

  1. Be proactive: Don't wait for your employer to recognise your potential. Take the initiative to learn new skills and take on new responsibilities. This will demonstrate your commitment and dedication to the firm while at the same time increasing your value in the job market

  2. Network: Build a network of contacts both inside and outside your organisation. This will help you gain a broader perspective and identify new job opportunities both internally and externally

  3. Negotiate: If your employer expects you to work longer hours or take on additional responsibilities, make sure you negotiate appropriate remuneration. This will help to prevent burnout and ensure that you are being compensated fairly for your work.

Loyalty to an employer can have both advantages and disadvantages for your career, and the choice is both personal and driven by you situation. It is important to strike a balance between being loyal and advancing your career in view of market expectations and, by being proactive, networking, and negotiating, you can demonstrate your commitment to your organisation and team while also taking steps to future-proof your career goals.