Why loyal employees lose out

Data suggests that workers who stay with a company longer than two years get paid 50% less. So at first glance the reasons why has it become acceptable to frequently move companies appear obvious. But there are other factors at play. Job hopping every couple of years used to look bad on a CV. It told recruiters you can’t hold down a job, get along with colleagues, or that you’re simply disloyal. But today, the accepted norm is that regular external moves are good for your career.

Here are some reasons why cheating on your company, it seems, is in:

Moving jobs pays off

Career monogamy used to be one company for life; today it’s one company at a time. Whereas leaving a good job with a good company used to be frowned upon, today choosing to stay with a company when you could leave is the new shame.

A recent study by the London School of Business and Finance found that 47% of professionals in the UK want to change jobs. That figure jumped to 66% among Millennials (people aged between 20 and 34). Further, a report found that nearly half of workers in the UK plan to quit their jobs this year.

Studies show that an average internal salary raise is 3% whereas an external salary raise is 10–20%. So staying employed at the same company for over two years is on average going to make you earn less over your lifetime by 50% or more.

Assumes your career will last 10 years. An avg 3% raise and a conservative 10% raise per transition. (Graph courtesy of Forbes)

Social desirability pressures

No one gets praised for staying in a company as much as they would for starting somewhere new. No likes, no comments, no emoji reactions…

There’s something about newness which is inherently exciting. And the more extreme the better. A career change to become an arctic pole researcher or wine taster is going to get more praise than getting a 3% raise from your existing law firm.

Gen Y has crazily high career expectations

Steve Jobs, in his oft-cited Stanford Commencement address, told the crowd to not “settle” for anything less than work they loved. 24 million views later and it’s resonated.

Cal Newport points out that “follow your passion” is a phrase that has only gotten going in the last 20 years. Google’s Ngram viewer, a tool that shows how frequently a given phrase appears in English print over any period of time maps this trend.

(graph courtesy of Waitbutwhy)

The same Ngram viewer shows that the phrase “a secure career” has gone out of style, just as the phrase “a fulfilling career” has taken off.

(graph courtesy of Waitbutwhy)

We expect so much from our employers today:

  • A place where I make some of my best friends.
  • A place that constantly challenges and progresses me.
  • A place that motivates me intrinsically.
  • A place that stimulates me intellectually and supports my wants and my desires. And that thinks of me as indispensable, irreplaceable, and exceptional.

So is it any wonder that 79% of companies report to have a significant employee retention problem?

(drawing courtesy of Waitbutwhy)

The rise of alternative income streams

Careers are increasingly becoming designed by personal preference over necessity. We no longer need to find a sensible, safe job with an above average salary and hold on to it. Instead we can do something we love, and fund our lifestyle in various other ways.

Even in an economic downturn, many skilled workers are confident that they can easily find a new job if they get fired for getting caught interviewing elsewhere. And as we rely more and more on other income streams to supplement our income, such as renting our house on Airbnb, the threat of risking our economic security that we’ve traditionally felt from losing our jobs, diminishes further.


Today, we’ve never been more inclined to stray. Not because we have new desires to pursue, but because we live in a world where we feel entitled to pursue those desires. This is the culture where we all deserve to be happy. If we used to leave a company because we were unhappy, today we leave because we could be happier.

If you want to ensure that loyal employees do stay at your company, check out ThriveMap– a tool to objectively measure team and culture fit