“I feel bad about leaving.”
Those are words that I have heard many times from employee’s considering leaving one of my companies to go on to a new opportunity.
I’ve seen it enough to know that the feeling is common and genuine. Departing employees often feel a deep sense of loyalty to their company. They sometimes even view their departure as a betrayal.
This is a real dilemma for someone like you who is looking to live out a calling with your professional life. You want to be doing work that serves your calling, which sometimes means leaving your current role (even if it’s a great gig), in order to pursue the work that is going to be most fulfilling to you and of most service to others.
And yet, precisely because you are a conscientious person who has made it your mission to be excellent at work, you are torn between pursuing your calling and the loyalty that you feel toward your employer.
This got me thinking: How much loyalty does an employee actually owe an employer?
This answer may surprise you – especially since I most often sit as the employer.
Beyond a hard day’s work in exchange for a paycheck, an employee owes NOTHING to a company. – Click to Tweet
The Truth About Your Relationship with Your Employer
The company’s responsibility is to drive profits in the most effective way possible. If this means that for some reason you no longer help the employer reach this aim, the company can and will terminate your services.
This dynamic should work both ways.
When an employer no longer provides you what you need in the form of compensation and professional development then you have every right to terminate the relationship without guilt.
This is an especially important lesson for people like you, people who see their work not simply as a job but as their life’s great calling. In his most recent book,Mastery, Robert Greene puts it nicely (bolding is mine):
In Dealing with your career and its inevitable changes, you must think in the following way: You are not tied to a particular position; your loyalty is not to a career or your company. You are committed to your Life’s Task, to giving it full expression. It is up to you to find it and guide it correctly. It is not up to others to protect or help you. You are on your own.
What this means for employees (and employers)
This reality does NOT mean that you should pursue anything less than excellence in your current role simply because it’s not your final role. Quite the opposite. Since you are in pursuit of a calling, you have more than just money as a motivator. For you, being excellent where you are now is mission critical.
As well, this does NOT mean that you cannot develop loyalty toward individuals that you work with. Some of those relationship will be vitally important for you personally and professionally long after you have left your current role.
Loyalty is an integral part of any long-term relationship. Still, feelings of loyalty toward individual coworkers should not stand in the way of you pursuing and expressing your calling. Find an artful way to pursue your life’s great work with abandon and not burn your friends along the way.
If you end up on the other side of the table and become the employer, remember that your employees don’t owe you anything more than a hard days work. If you want to have long standing relationships with great employees, you’re going to need to capture more than their wallets.
You will need to capture their hearts with a vision for work that matters. You will also need to capture their attention and imagination by showing them a path where they can grow within your organization. Otherwise, they’ll go elsewhere to find the growth they desire.
And even if you do all of this, there will still come a point when a motivated employee needs to move on to find the growth that she’s looking for.
In that case, remember: no hard feelings.
Here’s the point:
Jobs are important. Careers are fine and companies can be great. None of these, though, should stand in the way of your calling.
What do you think? Do you feel overly loyal to your employer? Why or why not? Leave a comment.