Recently, my best friend (we’ll call her BF) was faced with a dilemma. She could
- Stick with her current job and be a “loyal employee”, or…
- Allow herself to be poached by a former boss who recently left her workplace.
BF’s Current Situation
She works for a big company, a couple of steps up from the bottom of the bureaucratic ladder. But, for the past two years, has found herself doing the job of someone one rung higher than she is currently paid for. While she’s been okay with that – stepping up and proving she is ready for promotion! – she was recently told pretty bluntly that there is a line of people with “more years” ahead of her for that pay bump no matter what the quality of her work. [Bureaucracy in action, huh?]
Also, even though she’s been permanently assigned to a team she’s really enthusiastic about, the last year or two she has also been mostly “on loan” to other teams whose work she’s pretty indifferent about. Basically, although she likes her job most of the time, there’s an underlying current of dissatisfaction that’s been growing for a while even before this opportunity.
One of BF’s bosses recently left to join a different company, and has offered BF and several of her other “good” colleagues promotions and more opportunities to follow to this other company. If BF goes, she’ll get to work on projects she finds interesting and with people that she considered the “cream of the crop” at her office. The offer (which is a formal written offer at this point) takes care of money and benefit issues, so she won’t have to worry about anything there – and she’ll get a bit of a pay boost, though nothing that will dramatically change her lifestyle or savings rate.
Sounds like a no brainer, right?
- Jump the line for the promotion.
- Get the pay boost.
- Get to work on projects she cares deeply about.
But this is actually a decision that BF has really been struggling with, and one of the main reasons is guilt. BF (like me) was raised Catholic – and let me tell you – Catholics know how to lay on a quality guilt trip.
The Parental Guilt Trip
BF’s parents are extremely well-practiced at the guilt trip and gave BF and earful when she told them she was considering leaving her current employer for another. (For what it’s worth, I don’t think they would have guilt-tripped her at all if she told them she was quitting to give them grandkids! Double-standard!!)
Since BF’s mom and dad each only ever had one employer in their entire life (dad was a military man, mom a teacher), they couldn’t get over how “disloyal” BF was considering being to her current employer.
“They gave you your start – even when you were just an intern still in school!”
“Who’s going to take care of you and guide you in your new job!?!”
“Think of all those burned bridges and contacts!!!”
Seriously. I wasn’t there, but knowing her parents – these statements would have come with a lot of hand wringing and perhaps tears on her mom’s face.
BF and I talked about their concerns, and together we decided that they didn’t really apply in the twenty-first century workforce the way they might have 30 years ago for her parents – especially since it seems like people in our generation (genX/millennial) are finding they have to hop jobs to move up the corporate ladder. But once we had assuaged the parental guilt, another more ugly form reared its ugly head.
BF still had to deal with her own guilt about those she felt like she would “leaving behind”. Since she knew that others in her organization were also being poached, she felt like she would be blindsiding her remaining boss who would already be losing a good number of his staffers. She also felt really bad about the staffers that would be left behind, since they would have to deal with all the remaining deadlines on her projects once she left – and she knew they were already overwhelmed with work. No matter how much preparation BF did after giving notice, the reality of her job is such that she knows there would be a scramble after she left to deal with various impending and unbendable deadlines.
While BF and I were talking about this, I reminded her of when I quit my last job. Since it was a company where giving notice isn’t really an option (often they walked people after they quit), and I didn’t want to screw anyone over, I worked night and day the few weeks leading up to the date I had chosen for my resignation. I completed projects well ahead of when they were needed so that the people I was “leaving” would be as little inconvenienced as possible by my departure. I, too, felt guilty about it.
In the end, my coworkers were fine after I left. I fielded a few calls to help direct them to documents or explain details behind outlines that weren’t 100% clear, but it wasn’t life-changing for the coworkers I left behind. They dealt with the temporary increase in workload and got through it. And judging from the friendships I still maintain with many of them, no one was ever mad at me for “inconveniencing” them.
What Do You Think?
If you were in BF’s shoes, what would you do? Are BF and I wrong to feel guilty about leaving a job? Do you think her parents are right to make her feel like she’s being disloyal to her employer? Is loyalty to an employer passé?