It was not that long ago that a young person could find a job and expect to keep that job until he retired. Experience was rewarded. Seniority was respected. Pensions were offered. And at the end of a long career, employers expressed their gratitude.
Those days are gone and it is now exceedingly rare to find someone who has spent a lifetime in one job, with one employer. It is customary for people to have many employers and that is not an entirely bad thing. From each employer we have an opportunity to learn new things, to meet new people and to grow in different ways. Employees will move on when better opportunities present themselves. Employers will eliminate positions to save money even if it means getting rid of a long time employee. It happens.
Just because it happens, however, does not mean that employers and employees should assume that it must happen. Indeed, both employers and employees will be better served if they act as if they will have a mutual relationship for a lifetime because preserving that fiction ensures the benefits of loyalty for however long the relationship does exist. With that in mind, here are ways that employers and employees should pattern their behavior.
You never know where your career will take you or who you will encounter along the way. Even if you know that you are not going to stay in a job for very long, treat it as your lifelong position because your coworkers will always remember the impression you gave them while you were working with them and you never know when one of them might be in a position to hire you for your dream job down the road. For that matter, you never know when you will need a recommendation or even if you will ever actually be able to leave the job in the first place. Never put yourself in the position of being fired just because you expect to be able to quit.
You are only as good as the team that you build. Your goal should be to build loyalty by building the resumes of the people who report to you. Trust them. Give them responsibility and the opportunity to improve their resumes. Make it possible for them to leave you. If you do that, you will find that most of your direct reports will feel too loyal to you to readily jump at the chance to leave you. At the same time, if you ever leave your position, you will have set your employees up for promotion on the one hand, or the ability to quickly find a job on the other. Either way, if you build the careers of the people who report to you, you will have lifelong loyalty from them and they will know that you are loyal, too. That can only help you as you advance in your own career.
Small Business Owners
If you want your business to someday be something more than a small business, have solid business plan, get good business financing, and treat your employees well. Treat them as if they were family — not the bad side of the family that you try to avoid but the part of the family that you visit at holidays. Your company can only grow to the extent your employees can shoulder the growth. Treat them like pack mules and they won’t necessarily carry your business where it needs to go.
Where do you fit in the employer-employee spectrum? What are the things that you remember about your colleagues, your managers and your direct reports?