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Loyalty is not what it used to be.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

The question of who to be loyal to – oneself or one’s employer – is difficult to answer for those not in the know. And by that I mean those who only look in from the outside.

It's far too easy to feel that within this churning machine commonly known as City life, you must grind and battle your way to the top through unshakeable loyalty to one’s employer; a large corporate with a global footprint where any career move or lack of devotion will ripple through the tens of thousands of LinkedIn connections and everybody would know. And nobody forgets. So you can forget about ever going back.

Where this may have described some of the corporations¹ of this world, it struggles to hold weight as a valid concern for moving firms in the City life we now know. Every day, Headhunters move consultants, advisors, specialists, work-winners, entrepreneurs… (and the list of titles goes on) to rival corporates, start-ups or into industry. And every day, Headhunters move some of these professionals to firms they previously worked for. It’s nonsensical to deny welcoming back with open arms an old colleague who understands the culture and ethos of a firm, and is now bringing more to the table in terms of skills, insight, competitor awareness and (by definition) a stronger desire to work for their ex-employer. In this day and age, City life can do nothing but thrive off this activity, and more and more businesses should, and indeed are, opening their doors to ex-employees.

But this of course like any working relationship is a two way story, and where some ex-employees may find themselves seduced by their previous employers, the employers of this City should actively make it their goal to create an environment that encourages growth, enjoyment, and one where employees would feel welcome and comfortable to return to. Kevin Smith, the London Regional Chairman of KPMG champions this approach suggesting that“businesses need to think about building something that staff will want to one day make their home – bringing their new experiences, improved skill sets and fresh insights back with them”.² He too has returned to an ex-employer after some time at a competitors office, and this provided him a great deal of experiences to bring back to KPMG where, clearly, it hasn't stopped him from achieving! And where this anecdote may not be applicable to the masses, it does succeed in proving that you do not need to grind and battle your way to the top through unshakeable devotion to one employer. You, as the employee, just need to be loyal to yourself by grasping exciting opportunities to grow and develop somewhere else, and your employer needs to be loyal to itself, by instilling ‘long term’ loyalty through creating exciting places to work… and somehow… the City life will find a way of bringing this loyalty together in a successful, enriching way for all.

So why this article, and why now? Honestly, this is something that’s been on my mind for a while as it’s a question my candidates ask me regularly when exciting opportunities arise or even when faced with counter offers … but thanks to a nudge from reading Kevin’s recent article, I thought it’s about time to share these words to everyone else who’s taken the time to read this:

“We all strive to be loyal… and rightly so. It’s a wonderful attribute that’s ranked highly in the workplace and in our personal lives. When you’re struggling to decide if loyalty means sticking by the employer who’s helped you grow, or if it means joining another employer who can help you grow further… don’t just look in from the outside. Look deeper. Who are you being loyal to – yourself or your employer? What does your current employer really do to earn your devotion in such a way that you may choose loyalty to them over yourself? And what does your potential new employer provide that is better for you, and your own growth? If you asked me, I would try and find the best way to be truly loyal to all three parties involved; yourself, your employer, and your potential employer. This often boils down into 2 options.

Option 1) Will staying with your current firm provide the best way for you to help grow their team, provide you with more ‘kudos’ to earn a higher rank and subsequent attention for your own growth, and will the potential employer be better served if they didn't hire you when your heart is not set on leaving?


Option 2) Will leaving now give you the chance to gain more exposure, knowledge and skills from a different angle, does your potential employer need someone like you to help drive their performance, and will your current employer understand and support your decision, with a view to maintaining a good relationship and be smart enough to welcome you back one day, should that be the decision you subsequently make?

Of course, every situation is unique with varying factors that affect these choices. But through approaching these decisions with a clear head and ensuring you take into account the culture and environment of each employer subjectively, you will make the most informed choice. And if you need someone to help you understand what the culture is really like at your potential employer, well, that’s why you have specialist recruiters, right?”

Happy decision making… and remember your loyalty always pays off, as long as you’re being loyal to the party/parties that have earned it.


¹  I have no knowledge or exposure to any such company in operation which either means i) my clients are fortunately the nice ones; and/or ii) I have yet to come across every corporation with a global footprint that operates in the UK… which is probably more likely, but naturally I prefer the sound of i) and choose to stand by that. So sue me.

²  K Smith, ‘Does loyalty still count in the City?’, CityAM, 21 August 2015,, (accessed 25 August 2015).

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