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Sorry, but loyalty isn’t a good enough reason to stay in a job

Your job feels like home, but it isn’t. Learn how to break up with your employer and move on with your career.

Sorry, but loyalty isn’t a good enough reason to stay in a job

Know when it's time to find a new job.

Remember your first day at your job? As a new hire, you saw the company through rose-colored lenses and were eager to get to work, excited about the opportunities that lay ahead.

But now you’ve been there awhile, and that new job smell has long since faded away. Lately, you’ve been thinking that you’ve gotten as much as you can out of your current position. You’re feeling stagnant, even stuck.

But you’re also feeling a deep sense of devotion to your job, and you know there may be some hurt feelings if you go. After all, this company—namely, your boss and colleagues—has done so much to help your career, maybe even positively impacted other areas of your life, too. Heck, some of your colleagues may have even been in your wedding. Basically, you’ve been sticking around out of allegiance—but is that really the right move?

Every job—even the good ones—has an expiration date. So, when you’ve got one foot out the door, but you can’t bring yourself to hand in your resignation, follow these steps to help you determine the best move for your career.

Understand that your firm is not your family

Often, feelings of loyalty come from a company culture that promotes the idea that the team is a family. But your relationship with your company isn’t the same as the relationship you have with your parents, spouse, children, or siblings.

“The question you need to ask yourself is, ‘Is this dynamic at work replicating the family dynamic?’” says Lisa Orbé-Austin, Ph.D., a psychologist and executive coach in New York City. If that’s the case, she says, loyalty can prevent you from doing what you need to do, as it might in a parent/child relationship.

“It’s not a family, and while it may have the culture of one, it’s important to remind yourself of that,” Orbé-Austin says. “There are boundaries around this experience.”

Remember that loyalty is often a one-way street

It can often feel like you should stick with an employer, even when it’s not a good fit anymore. But your employer probably doesn’t feel the same way.

“We’ve all heard examples of employers going above and beyond for an employee that’s in a tough spot, but those are the exceptions to the rule,” says Kim Stiens, founder and CEO of career development company Ranavain. “When push comes to shove, the business will not choose loyalty to you over its own best interests, so you should think carefully if you want to do so for them.”

Keep in mind, too, that loyalty doesn’t have to be a factor in deciding to stay or leave an organization.

“There’s a great book called The Alliance that talks about how when we take a job, we are agreeing to take a tour of duty with a company until the tour is done,” says Caitlin Magidson, a counselor and career coach based in Bethesda, Maryland. “When you’ve outgrown your position or have new vision, it may mean your tour of duty is complete.”

Plan your exit story

If you decide to give notice, think about how you want to frame your departure so you don’t burn any bridges when you quit. “The story you tell makes a huge difference,” says Alexander Lowry, a finance professor at Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts, who also helps alumni evaluate their careers.

Are you leaving to take a job with a direct competitor? Or, are you leaving because you’ve outgrown your work at this organization and there are no more opportunities for you there? Is it a lifestyle change—do you want to work fewer hours because you need to care for an ailing parent or you want to move closer to your children?

 “If you can make it a story about quality of life, [that helps]. It’s almost like a dating situation. If you can let someone down easily, it’s better,” Lowry says.

Don’t leave your team in the lurch

Executives at the higher levels are much harder to replace than employees further down the ladder, so recognize that you’re likely leaving your employer in a tight spot.

Timing also plays an important factor. “You might leave a bad taste in folks’ mouths if you put in your two weeks right after returning from a lengthy leave that your team had to work overtime for months to cover,” Stiens says. “[Try to] be sensitive to the people around you who picked up your slack—show appreciation and regret for the timing.”

In other words, give as much notice as you can. If you can, offer help in the transition of your job responsibilities to the new hire. The more you can ease the handover of your job to the next “you,” the better you’ll feel mentally about going.

The idea is to leave on good terms because it’s a small world, especially at the upper levels. These are contacts you’ve made, and you might see them again later in your career.

Be prepared for the reactions you’ll get

When you leave a company you have a strong bond with, you may face a lot of remarks and questions from people: “You’re leaving us??” or “How could you do this to us now?!” or “When did you start looking??” It’s critical to have the skills to manage your responses.

“I really encourage my clients to have great boundaries and to prep ahead of time for these types of questions,” Orbé-Austin says. Apologizing for leaving or saying you’re sorry suggests that you’re in the wrong, which isn’t the case.

“You’ve gotten another job, which is completely OK,” Orbé-Austin says. Reinforce that the decision to leave is to better your own life, not to make their lives miserable. Emphasize that you got a wonderful opportunity that really excites you. If they’re not happy for you, well, that simply shows you where their own loyalty lies.

Stay loyal to your job search

It can be hard making your job search a priority when you have to balance it with your current gig, but it’s important to make a dedicated effort and really commit to finding a job. Need some help keeping your job search on course? Join Monster for free today. As a member, you not only get job alerts emailed right to your inbox, which cuts down on the amount of time you’d spend combing through ads, but you can upload up to five versions of your resume—each tailored to different types of jobs that interest you. Recruiters search Monster every day looking to fill top jobs with qualified candidates, just like you. Commit to finding a new job today.

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