Take the 2-minute tour ×
Programmers Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for professional programmers interested in conceptual questions about software development. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I saw this question posted on Slashdot and thought it would make a great question here on Programmers.SE.

It's not my question, nor my situation.

Here goes:

"As a senior developer for a small IT company based in the UK that is about to release their flagship project, I know that if I were to leave the company now, it would cause them some very big problems. I'm currently training the other two 'junior' developers, trying to bring them up to speed with our products. Unfortunately, they are still a long way from grasping the technologies used – not to mention the 'interesting' job the outsourced developers managed to make of the code. Usually, I would never have considered leaving at such a crucial time; I've been at the company for several years and consider many of my colleagues, including higher management, to be friends. However, I have been approached by another company that is much bigger, and they have offered me a pay rise of £7k to do the same job, plus their office is practically outside my front door (as opposed to my current 45 minute commute each way). This would make a massive difference to my life. That said, I can't help but feel that to leave now would be betraying my friends and colleagues. Some friends have told me that I'm just being 'soft' – however I think I'm being loyal. Any advice?"

What are your thoughts on this Anonymous Slashdotter's situation?

share|improve this question

closed as off topic by Mark Trapp Oct 7 '11 at 17:26

Questions on Programmers Stack Exchange are expected to relate to software development within the scope defined by the community. Consider editing the question or leaving comments for improvement if you believe the question can be reworded to fit within the scope. Read more about reopening questions here. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

IMHO, this is influenced a lot by culture of the answerees. Loyalty is valued in some, less valued in another culture. Would be wise to ask the answerees where they are from. –  Rook Oct 7 '11 at 15:59
When companies started changing from pensions to 401k, that was the signal that loyalty was not reciprocated. That happened in the 80s. If you've passed up an opportunity due to "loyalty" since then, you're a sucker. –  Brook Oct 7 '11 at 16:11
I know a CEO of a company that has about 40 employees. He always says, "You have to look out for Number 1." –  jberger Oct 7 '11 at 16:18
It sounds like the OP is training his cheaper replacements. He ought to give notice and take the better job. If his coworkers are really his friends, they'll still be his friends. I'm not sure about London, but in this day and age I can't believe that any future potential employer would refuse an applicant who left for a better gig after giving the first job a good run. The days of 30 years and a gold watch are long over in the private sector. –  Jim In Texas Oct 7 '11 at 16:50
General workplace issues aren't on-topic here, and it's really stretching the point of the site to repost "Ask Other Site" questions here when you don't actually have the problem. If you did have this problem, you'd want to follow the Professional Matters Area 51 proposal, where such questions would be on-topic and welcome. –  user8 Oct 7 '11 at 17:27

11 Answers 11

Most companies do what is good for the company, not what is good to the employee.

My experience shows that loyalty is trumped by many factors - politics, money and simple uncaring management being some of them. I have seen companies shed good people without a second thought.

In regards to money - loyal people are at a disadvantage, as they are normally people who have been around the longest, hence gotten more pay rises and therefor are the most expensive and hence easier to let go on this basis.

The sentiment of the OP is laudable - he doesn't want to leave people who depend on him in a lurch, but doesn't seem to realize that if he became a liability (for whatever reason), the company would say goodbye in a flash.

If the company believes he is as valuable and indispensable as he believes he is, he would have been paid more, have a longer notice period and be working with high caliber people instead of just training juniors.

In short - be loyal to the party most important to you in this relationship -yourself.

share|improve this answer
I have to agree. It's not an easy choice to make, but you sometimes have to be selfish when it comes to career choices. –  RYFN Oct 7 '11 at 16:18
If the situation was reversed and the company could make a move that would benefit the company but leave the OP in the lurch the company would probably make the move. –  Chad Oct 7 '11 at 16:59
That is an excellent answer. –  Adam Arold Oct 7 '11 at 17:37

In general, loyalty buys you absolutely nothing. If the company and people you* worked for were absolutely amazing, they would actually tell you to GO for that opportunity, because it's clearly better for you.

Depending on local laws you can still put in your notice time (which might be a few months) to ease the transition. If you like the company, don't leave a mess behind even though you have a better offer. That's "fair loyalty", it's in your contract.

In any case, if you cannot easily leave the company within your notice time, then you (and/or the company) were guilty of bad planning/management anyway. Or you were guilty of making yourself indispensible, which is a bad tactic for the company health overall.

*Note that by the "you" I don't mean Moshe, but the hypothetical employee with the great offer.

share|improve this answer
+1 for this - there's no need to leave a mess behind. Doing everything for an orderly transition is the professional and ethical thing to do. But anything beyond that is loyalty that the company will never repay. –  Pekka 웃 Oct 7 '11 at 15:44
@Pekka - That's just being professional (not leaving a mess...). –  Oded Oct 7 '11 at 15:47
@Oded - but you should ask yourself if the company would reciprocate that sentiment if, for example, you suddenly got a serious long-term illness. –  Joris Timmermans Oct 7 '11 at 15:50
@MadKeithV - well, from my perspective, I did get a serious long-term illness and my then-employer did a huge amount to try to help me. There are still some employers who are loyal to their employees. But then, it's not really that simple. I was working for a relatively small company - I don't believe that the allowances made for me meant other employees suffered, but for an even smaller company or in the current economic climate things might have been different, and being too loyal to some employees could mean harming others. –  Steve314 Oct 7 '11 at 16:06
Excellent answer. Also, made me think of my current company, which does encourage people with better opportunities to take them, and even helps them with it. –  configurator Oct 7 '11 at 16:24

Early in my career my father would look at me working myself to the bone, and when I'd say "But I have to get this done . . . but I'm the only one to do it . . . but I . . ." he'd say "You're not as important to them as you think you are, because . . ." followed by something like

". . . if you got hit by a bus in the morning the company would survive"


" . . . at the end of the day if it came down to your job or the CEOs/bosses job, he'll let you go"

He's a hard worker my Dad, and proud of his work, but he tempered his work-pride and loyalty with the knowledge that the company doesn't value you as a person, they value the work you can do for them.

Therefore, personal loyalty to a company is misplaced, being able to walk away knowing you did the best job you could should be sufficient.

In that light the question - to take the new job or stay out of loyalty - becomes a no-brainer.

share|improve this answer
I've heard the same from my Dad, when I was working as a teenager in summer camps. "Directors know that people are dispensable." Great point. –  Moshe Oct 7 '11 at 16:00
Well said. If your boss really values you, he will do the best he can so you can't find a better opportunity else where. And, in a company, no one is loyal to anyone. If your manager has a better opportunity, he will jump too. –  thinkanotherone Oct 7 '11 at 17:02

Whether loyalty pays depends on the company. There are some companies who value loyalty very highly (I've worked for some - some small, some very very large), others who see people as largely interchangeable resources who will cut you loose as soon as it suits them.

Without knowing specifics it's hard to say which this company is but there are a few other (often contradictory) things to consider in this sort of scenario:

  • Loyalty may not pay but disloyalty can be punished. The IT industry is surprisingly small. Even in London (population 8 million) I've seen someone get a bad reputation and have it come back to bite them later (calls to friends of friends are common and you soon find out about the guy who left under a cloud). The reality is that this probably won't happen but if you're going to leave at a point that really leaves the team in the lurch it might be a consideration.

  • No-one is irreplaceable. I saw the best programmer I ever worked with leave and the world didn't stop turning. It may be you are key to the project but it's more likely that while you'll be missed, everyone else on the project will carry on and the impact will be minimal. If you are convinced you're that valuable then...

  • Lots of people quit places without ever giving their current employer a chance to correct what's bothering them. This sounds in part like a simple money thing. Try talking to your current boss about it, explain what's happened, what you're thinking and see if it can be resolved without the risk of moving (see the next point).

  • Judging other jobs is often harder than you'd think. You're painfully aware of what's bad about your current job but finding out what's bad about another job is tricky. Even if you know people there you need to know them very well to understand whether the things that they think are bad are the things you will dislike. Often the grass isn't greener, it's just a different shade of brown.

  • If you still think you want to leave but still feel bad about it, can you work a longer notice period to make the transition easier? The company you're moving to should be looking at you as a long term investment, therefore they should be willing to wait 3 months (rather than 1 say) to have you on board. It's certainly worth asking and I'd be a little dubious about a company who weren't willing to support someone trying to do the right thing unless they had a very specific reason.

So loyalty is one factor, but there are also other very good reasons to be cautious about moving and to think things through properly.

Obviously if you make a bad move, you can always move on again but that can only happen so often before your CV starts to look a mess, so make sure you weigh up everything.

share|improve this answer
+1 for Try talking to your current boss about it, explain what's happened, what you're thinking and see if it can be resolved without the risk of moving.; telling your boss that you got another (better) offer will soon show you how much you are valued. –  Qwerky Oct 7 '11 at 16:30
I took a job once only to have my employer come back to me and say, "Please tell me your issues so we can resolve them". I walked away with a substantial pay increase and all of my other issues resolved as well. I called the other job and told them that I was staying put. Good employers are usually very ready to do what it takes to keep a good employee. –  Jonathan Henson Oct 7 '11 at 18:41

I don't think loyalty normally pays noticably up-front by getting some distinct "loyalty" bonus (not that I think there is such a thing), but it could have consequences later if you are disloyal to the point of burning bridges and leaving in ways that show you don't care about how your current employer handles your absence (if you are truly indespensible/irreplaceable). Of course it may also depend on local corporate culture - if they are used to very high turnover rates in employees, lack of loyalty may not be noticed.

share|improve this answer
You touch on a potentially important point - the original asker of the question seems to have a rather skewed view of "loyalty". If you interpret the question as "what will it cost me be to be disloyal to my current company to chase an opportunity" you do get different answers. +1 for sparking a debate! –  Joris Timmermans Oct 7 '11 at 15:38

It is a natural reaction to have, especially if you have bonded, and become real friends.

This type of loyalty will be smashed right out of you the first time a company makes you redundant. You have to do what is right for you.

£7k pay rise, and eliminating a 1.5 hour round trip commute seems pretty appealing to me.

You have to do what is right for you though, and only you (or the guy on /.) can answer that.

share|improve this answer
Seriously Eric? get a life! –  jmo21 Oct 7 '11 at 16:08
get a damn life! ftfy... –  Brandon Moretz Oct 7 '11 at 16:31
Probably trying to get the damn Copy Editor badge. –  Oded Oct 7 '11 at 16:35

I would recommend you (that is anonymous slashdotter) talk with your current management. Tell them that you received a very good offer from another company and that you are strongly considering on leaving for (a) significantly more pay for the same job and (b) shorter commute.

Tell them, you enjoy your current job and don't want to leave them without a replacement, and ask for a counter offer. E.g., telecommute 2 days a week plus a comparable raise (or a larger raise with no telecommuting). Give them a reasonable amount of time to get back to you (e.g., ask the other employer how long their offer is valid) and if they don't come back with a comparable offer, give them your two weeks notice and take the better job.

This way you push the loyalty question back on to them; if they value your services as much as others they should pay accordingly. (And if anything with all the institutional-specific knowledge you have picked up you are more valuable to your current company than the new company).

share|improve this answer

I have to say this is a tricky one. The employee would have to ask themselves if this kind of opportunity is likely to come up again in the near future, and the chances are that it is not. If the employee was just planning on jumping ship purely because they don't want to support the new system, then that is deliberatly disloyal, and word gets around about that sort of thing, but when an opportunity comes along, you have to go for it.

Also, having seen redundancies for almost every employer I have worked for, I would question whether the same sort of loyalty would be reciprocated.

For all my employers (and collegues), When I have left the job, I have assured them that I would always be available on the phone if they needed any help, free of charge. I believe this would be a good compromise in this situation.

share|improve this answer

There are some significant differences in these two jobs that have serious affects on the family: pay and shorter commute. I switched from a 50 min one-way commute to working at home. I use to get home wanting to nothing but eat, watch TV and sleep. My energy level is much higher now. My pay "increased" because I now live in a less expensive area of the country and have the same salary, which is nice.

I'm not big on blind company loyalty, but I see being loyal to myself as NOT being a shit-head who goes through life keeping score and thinks all relationships are based on tit-for-tat. I know the difference between being taken advantage of, under-appreciated and my choice to do the right thing. I have taken jobs for less pay and longer commutes because I did not like my new boss and thought the position was not going to further my career (Sort of a one step back to take two steps forward.). Life is too short and creates situations out of your control that limit happiness. Friends will always support you doing what is best for yourself instead of dragging you down.

share|improve this answer

It depends on the corporate culture, your standing in the company, and a host of other details that differ from situation to situation, even day-to-day.

The conflict this SlashDotter is experiencing is perfectly natural. From a personal perspective, he's become friends with those around him. From a professional perspective, the company probably won't like it much if he bails and that could reflect poorly on him through references. However, the benefits of a job change are significant; as a person who went the other way commute-wise, I never knew how much of a blessing a 10-15min commute was until I was commuting almost an hour one way. A US$10k+ raise and cutting my drive time (and gas budget) by two thirds would be near-irresistible, IF I thought the job would be engaging and the environment encouraging.

Most companies like a loyal employee; an employee who likes his job and wants to stay with the company generally has good morale and high productivity. Some companies will reward this. However, as other answers have stated, many companies also think little of kicking a loyal employee to the curb if that helps the company's bottom line. Since the bottom fell out, there have been massive layoffs across all sectors; those companies are doing fine according to their SEC filings, but the "99%" are pretty fed up with being treated like commodities and that is beginning to reflect poorly on the companies themselves. Loyalty works both ways.

share|improve this answer

I've been on both sides of this question and the short answer is 'you are not as important as you think you are'.

I've seen people quit and more or less tell the other employees that the company will collapse soon because he/she is quitting (it didn't). And if a key person does quit most organizations adapt and rise to meet the challenges.

A better way to frame the question is "I have a great opportunity in a new job. I get a better commute, 90 mins back in my day, a fresh challenge and a pay raise. In 5/10/15 years how will I look back on this decision?"

The OP states the work is already being outsourced - that is a big clue. And don't believe for a minute the colleagues will loyally stay around when they get a better job offer.

share|improve this answer

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.