The Reasons Why Workplace Loyalty is Declining

Doug Horn on January 21, 2015 10:13:00 AM EST


Worldwide, people respect (and perhaps naively expect) loyalty. It holds so much weight to folks that they actually become enraged should someone prove to be disloyal. I mean, just look at the city of Cleveland. Lebron went from hometown hero to villain when he took his talents to Miami, and back to hero when he returned. Of course, it remains to be seen if that label will stick considering the Cavs’ struggles this year, but for now, he is no longer the maligned figure he once was in Ohio.

Nevertheless, the underlying issue the city of Cleveland had with Lebron was one of loyalty. He was expected to spend his entire career there, bringing them their first title. When he left, the people of Cleveland felt betrayed, and his jersey was subsequently burned in the streets.

In the world of business, employers know better than to expect an employee might spend their entire career with them. In fact, the job-hopping plague among younger generations is so severe that 91% of millennials anticipate staying in a particular job for less than three years. Adding further support to this notion of dwindling loyalty are the facts that 74% of employees are actively looking for a new job and 69% say that searching for new opportunities is part of their “regular routine.”

So what’s going on here? Is loyalty, just like chivalry, dead? Let’s examine some possible reasons as to why so many workers in today’s world demonstrate minimal loyalty to their employers.


1) People are More Loyal to Their Careers, Not Their Employers

This may be one of, if not the main reason workplace loyalty has experienced a dramatic fall. Millennials are a generation widely considered to be “entitled” or “self-absorbed,” and if a certain employer is not meeting their professional or financial goals, they have no problem moving on to another company who will meet them. Whereas previous generations may have stuck it out until a raise was granted, younger workers may not have the patience to do so.

The solution is greater transparency between employer and employee. The goals and expectations of both parties should be clearly expressed at the time of hire and readdressed after a predetermined amount of time. Employers who are open to discussing these issues with their staff will likely see a rise in employee loyalty, and a fall in job-hopping.

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2) Problems with Upper Management

We’ve discussed this in the past, but it bears repeating: quality managers are a big part of keeping employees happy. A poor manager may disrupt workplace morale or camaraderie and be directly correlated with your employee’s decision to leave. In fact, 17% of workers quit due to management problems, a figure that is much too high.

The solution here is an emphasis on hitting managerial hires out of the park. Managers who keep lines of dialogue open with their team will foster a more accommodating atmosphere in which better work can be delivered. Performance reviews that include the opinions of the employees that they manage will also help develop a better picture of the type of leader a certain manager is.


3) A Symptom of a Larger Problem

Wharton management professor Adam Cobb sees the declining loyalty as a symptom of an evolving relationship between organization and employee. Cobb sees employee behavior being influenced from the major organizational restructuring that began thirty years ago. “Firms have always laid off workers, but in the 1980s, you started to see healthy firms laying off workers, mainly for shareholder value. Firms would say ‘We are doing this in the long-term interest of our shareholders,’” Cobb noted. “You would also see cuts in employee benefits — 401(k)s instead of defined benefit pensions, and health care costs being pushed on to employees. The trend was toward having the risks be borne by workers instead of firms. If I’m an employee, that’s a signal to me that I’m not going to let firms control my career.” Basically, if a company does not take care of its employees, it can’t expect those workers to stick around for long.

The solution here is as simple as remembering The Golden Rule. Employees who are working full-time but receiving poor benefits will feel disrespected, and they will begin searching elsewhere. It’s no surprise that the companies that provide the most perks to their workforce also have the best employer brand.


Workplace loyalty may be on the decline, but that doesn’t mean it will disappear forever. Employers can make strides in reducing job-hopping by hiring quality managers and treating employees how they’d like to be treated. While millennials may trend towards the self-centered side, that doesn’t mean each one will prove disloyal. If employers put in the effort, workplace loyalty can make a comeback.