Does job loyalty exist anymore? Should it?

15 pts.
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Career Development
Hi Everybody: Let's say that my employer just forked over thousands of dollars to train me in the latest and greatest technology or product. Do I "owe" my employer anything? Is it unethical to take the training then run to a new, better-paying position? Could I be "black listed" if I did that? How long should I wait to make it more ethical (if that's possible)? Yes, I can already hear many of you scoffing at the notion of "ethics" in business. In these tough times, is it really every man for himself? Is the notion of loyalty to one's employer a quaint artifact of a distant time? Let me hear your thoughts and rants! Thanks.
ASKED: October 25, 2004  10:14 PM
UPDATED: February 26, 2008  5:24 PM

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It is a common problem that once someone receives some extra certifications that they are worth more in the market place. If you want to be ethical about this, you should stay with your employer for one year or offer to pay them back for the training when you leave. New employers will often pick up this expense. I required my employees to sign a contract stating that if they left before the year was up, they would reimburse the company for training. It is a great expense, not only for the classes, but add expenses, extra hours for those taking up your slack while you are in training and now a new curve to bring someone else up to speed. This may very well affect your references for the next several years. Try to be fair.

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  • Etittel
    Dear Timd: I disagree with the previous posting to some extent, and it may seem like rather a fine point. In fact, many employers (including the previous poster, if I'm not mistaken) require employees to sign retention/payback agreements before picking up the tab for work-related training. If you're bound by such an agreement, you should probably do what it requires should you decide to seek employment elsewhere (and his suggestion that you ask a new employer to reimburse the old one is a very good one). That said, if you're not bound by an agreement that requires you to stay for a period of definite duration or provide some kind of payback, you are not legally bound to stay. I do think it would be ethical to go to that employer and tell them what you think you're worth and ask that they split the difference with you (they did absorb your training costs, after all) between where you are now and where you can show them you think you should be by pointing to salarly surveys, comparable job postings in your area, or (best of all) a competitive offer from another employer. But if they don't want to meet you at least half-way that's a sign you can't overlook either, and you should probably start investigating other options if you haven't already done so. Do consider this old saw before you jump into the job market, though: "Better the devil you know than the devil you don't." By this, I mean you already know what's up in your current job, and you're presumably doing well enough there to merit your current employer's outlays for training. Going somewhere else means starting over from scratch and learning a lot of new stuff (including a lot that has nothing to do with IT or technology, but rather how the new employer does things, their corporate or organizational culture, a new boss, and so forth). Good luck! --Ed--
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  • BlueKnight
    Job loyalty depends on both the employee and the employer as I see it. If the employer treats employees fairly and is willing to spend the money to train employees, then some loyalty from the employees should be expected. The ethical thing to do is to stay a year after the training so your employer realizes (hopefully) some return on the investment. Black listing is illegal, but being unethical to a reasonable decent employer can get you less than stellar references from that employer... something to consider. Having an employee sign an agreement to stay with the company for a year following the training, or reimburse the expense, is fairly common. They put out the expense and they'd like to have some sort of return on their investment. If you take the training then run to another higher paying job, you risk getting a reputation for those actions and it eventually will catch up with you. The training alone does not necessarily translate into an immediate salary increase, but it provides the basis upon which you can perform tasks you didn't have the knowlege to do previously. Once you show that the training you received helped you perform your job better, then you have a basis on which to seek an increase in salary. As mentioned in other posts, supporting salary surveys and even job offers go a long way to support your position. As I see it, if your employer is loyal, that is they treat you fairly, pay you reasonably well and provide additional training etc., then you owe them some loyalty in return... at least for the year following training.
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  • GopherGuy
    I'm with the others. If an employer asked me to sign a document agreeing to a term of service in exchange for sending me to class, I would immediately seek other employment. That is called indentured servitude and is unethical. do believe that BOTH employers and employees have ethical obligations toward each other. Unfortunately many employers seem very short on loyalty to their employees. Because of this my answer would vary based on the historical behavior of the employer. If an employer has treated you fairly, with fair compensation and labor practices then you should have at least enough loyalty to them to negotiate with them if you have been offered a more lucrative position. Furthermore, I think it is reasonable to expect an employer to give a technologist 1-2 weeks tech training per year, every year, since it is absolutely necessary to keep that employee up to date. The employer will usually reap what they sow.
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