The Truth About Millennials and Job Loyalty

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Straight Talk Green Road SignMost people value a sense of loyalty. Most want to be known as loyal people and desire for others to be loyal to them. Yet, I wonder if there’s an accurate way to measure loyalty? Who and/or what decides thisdefines a loyal person and thatdoesn’t?

Our good friend Merriam Webster says to be loyal is to be unswerving in allegiance. Hmm. Unswerving as in unchanging, steady, constant. So, to be deemed loyal, one must steadily demonstrate a sense of commitment to someone or something. This is interesting.

It brings me back to my first question of how can we measure loyalty? I’m particularly interested in how to do this when it comes to the workplace. What number of hours must one work or years must one be at a job to be considered a loyal employee?

This subject of loyalty came to my attention after reading an excerpt on multigenerational characteristics from Bruce Mayhew Consulting. Of Millennials, the group I belong to, it said:

Millennials will be loyal to a company – but will not provide blind loyalty. As long as their personal interest and career needs are being met (which change frequently) – and the company is socially responsible, the Millennial will be loyal. But they are not concerned about job-hopping. They will quit now and find that job later – and if that doesn’t work out they can always count on their helicopter parents for support.

I agree and disagree with a few points in the above statement, but, nonetheless, it got me to thinking about Millennials and this thing called loyalty.

Many have described my generation with a slew of negative words, such as:

  • Spoiled
  • Narcissistic
  • Selfish
  • Demanding
  • Distrustful
  • Unappreciative
  • Disloyal

Disloyal is an interesting word. I’ve read many an article (and comments) painting a picture of lazy Millennials who are unwilling to “pay their dues.” One of the biggest reasons given for this perspective is job hopping.

According to the Future Workplace Multiple Generations @ Worksurvey, 91 percent of Millennials anticipate staying in a job for less than three years. The study explains this statistic means Millennial workers would have around 15 – 20 jobs over the course of their working lives.

The notion of staying at a job for only three years (or even less) can be viewed as disloyal. As Bruce Mayhew’s firm puts it, the Baby Boomer generation believes in loyalty and working your way up to the top.

Baby Boomers are loyal to the companies they work for. They want to trust their employers and will not move companies as quickly as either X-ers or Millennials.

So the comparison comes down to this: Baby Boomers are loyal, period. Millennials can be loyal, but their loyalty is conditional.

As a Millennial, my question is: Why is this a bad thing?

Loyalty is subjective. The way that you define what it means to be loyal will differ from the way another views loyalty.

Loyalty is conditional. Most people base their degree of loyalty on something. For example, as Bruce Mayhew’s firm pointed out, Millennials can be loyal to a company, but won’t be blindly loyal, i.e. to the point of overlooking their own beliefs, morals, integrity, etc.

Just because Millennials don’t possess the same  I’m-so-loyal-I’ll-work-at-the-same-company-for-35-years mentality as others, does not make them disloyal. It makes them define loyalty forthemselves.

Bottom line: Most workers work for self-preservation. They work at a job with a certain company to receive compensation for their personal benefits. At the end of the day, most workers’ ultimate loyalty lies within themselves because they have to lookout for themselves. A lot of companies will overlook people for promotions or layoff and fire workers to cut costs. Their bottom line is preserving the company (and its revenue) and if that’s at the expense of some workers, so be it.

When workers keep their ultimate loyalty within themselves it’s the same concept. As the saying goes, “you gotta’ to do what’s best for you.”

I’m not saying workers (specifically Millennials) should be selfish and only care about their own interests, but when it’s all said and done, they have goals and will do whatever is in their best interests to achieve them.

So, yes, this may mean Millennials will hop from job-to-job; or won’t think twice about quitting their current position after just one year. Millennials have career goals and aspirations, and at the end of the day, their loyalty resides in the necessary steps to fulfilling them not in others’ definitions.

By Shala Marks