There are three new realities that have forced Generation X (and now Millennials) to redefine loyalty to an employer:
1) The deal is off.
My father-in-law believed that if you took care of the company, the company would take care of you. But most of us don’t believe that anymore. Organizations aren’t sure they’ll need you in four years, let alone until your retirement. Randstad’s 2009 World of Work survey discovered that 57% of workers describe themselves as loyal to their employers, but only 25% think their companies are loyal to them. (Surprisingly, this number has not been affected by the Great Recession. The percentage is unchanged since 2005, the height of the economy.)
Gen Xers get criticized for showing less loyalty than the Boomers and Traditionalists, but they know that pensions and seniority are gone, Baby Boomers aren’t retiring, and whole industries like manufacturing, telecommunications, and print media are redefining themselves, so security comes from having the savvy to handle whatever comes their way. They are ready to move on to the next best thing or to learn something new; they don’t intend to be the last person standing when the music stops. Xers don’t expect the company to take care of them; they know they have to take care of themselves. To many Traditionalists and Boomers, this comes across as self-centered and disloyal. To Xers, it’s a matter of survival.