Loyalty. Seems like an ancient concept, doesn’t it? The foolish notion that a company would ever give a rat’s ass about an employee or vice versa. How retro.

When the subject comes up we always seem to imagine some poor schmuck who slaves away for the man for 10 or 20 years, only to get cruelly laid off on Christmas Eve just to improve the bottom line.

The thing is, in addition to the obvious ethical benefit, the notion of loyalty also has a material upside for both parties. The corporate world generally recognizes that. And companies that don’t, should. Same for employees.

All things being equal, companies should always want good employees to stick around. They’re hard to come by and expensive to replace.

Just as repeat customers are the least expensive customers to acquire, current employees are the least expensive employees to have. They’re already up to speed so you don’t have to onboard or train them. And you’ve already seen them in action, so the risk is lower.

Likewise, all things being equal, employees should always want to stick with a good employer. Good bosses are hard to come by and risky to switch.

Let’s face it; it’s a hassle to switch jobs. You have to do the whole interview thing. Then you have to leave your comfort zone for a new environment. And the unknown carries unknown risks. When the honeymoon period is over, look out.

Don’t get me wrong; if your current employer isn’t meeting your needs or doing right by you, that’s a real problem you should deal with. Of course the same is true in reverse. If you’re not cutting it, you’ve got to go.

And if getting that promotion or an exciting new opportunity means jumping companies, that may very well be the right move. But you have to admit, you’d just as soon not have to go through all that, wouldn’t you?

The truth is this: if things aren’t working out, it’s better for both employee and employer to part ways. If you’re not sure, it’s best to wait and see or try and work things out. And if things are working out, it’s better for both parties to stay together.

No matter what anyone says, those statements are all true and aligned both ethically and materially.

I don’t know what loyalty means to you but that’s what it means to me. It’s not an antiquated term. It’s just as meaningful today as it’s always been. And you know what? The same goes for marriage.

Image credit Sheila Sund / Flickr