The more profitable your employer, particularly if it is a large corporation, the more attention the employer pays to its biggest asset, its employees. Profitable companies offer perks to employees like vacation days, 401(k) matching contributions, health care subsidies, free lunches, on-site day-care, unlimited restroom breaks, and development opportunities. Don’t confuse these benefits designed to woo would-be and current employees with actual caring.
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Corporations do not care about employees. Your boss and your co-workers might care about you as a person, and if they do, that’s a good thing. But a corporation provides benefits for only two reasons: to attract the best talent and to keep that talent motivated and productive. Even the primary purpose of health benefits are to keep you in the office doing your work rather than sick at home.
From a corporate point of view, employees are only seen as how they affect the bottom line. This is the same way you should view your employer. Forget about corporate loyalty.
In finance, the term “sunk costs” refer to expenses that have been spent and can’t be recovered. When making business decisions you have to ignore the past and decide what options are the best moving forward. The same idea applies to time you’ve spent with a company. I’ve talked to many people who say, “I’ve already spent fifteen years at this company, so I might as well stick around until retirement so I can get a package.” I’ve heard this even when the speaker had another twenty years before retirement!
The past is a sunk cost. Look only at the present and the future. Those retirement packages are designed to chain you to your employer but with some fancy maneuvering you might be able to get a better deal by changing jobs. Even if you haven’t been working long enough at the company for your 401(k) matching contributions to vest, you can use that when negotiating your compensation for your next job.
Think about your greater state of being in addition to your finances when making life choices, but when dealing with your employer, focus on the bottom line. Just like a company has a responsibility to its shareholders to maximize revenue and minimize expenses, you have the same responsibility to yourself and your family.
The economy is rough right now, and a lot of people I know are sitting tight waiting for better employment news and other indicators that certain companies are hiring again. One of my friends has been out of a job since 2008. Even though it’s an employer’s market, employees can’t let employers take advantage of their talents and work ethic.
Generation Y isn’t the only group of workers rejecting the unblinking loyalty to employers once favored.
- Always keep your eye open for new opportunities.
- Always have a basic résumé updated and ready.
- Always stay up-to-date in your field.
- Always say yes to manageable projects.
- Always look to meet new people in your industry.
- Always let outsiders know you are interested in moving forward with your career.
- Always look for ways to be successful working for yourself.
- Always have options.
What do you suggest to help ensure employers don’t take advantage of employees in today’s job market?
Updated October 21, 2015 and originally published January 13, 2010.