Think about where you place your job loyalty

Losing your job

From a recent post by Gretchen Kittelberger about losing her job (CrossFit athlete and prior Counsel at CrossFit, Inc.):

It really wouldn’t have mattered if my work, or my effort, or my output had been 10x or 100x better. At the end of the day I still would have ended up in the same position I am now. For instance, suppose a company needs to cut jobs for financial reasons or maybe they eliminate positions because they aren’t going to offer a particular product or service anymore. In those cases, it doesn’t really matter how good you were at your job, does it? If you are in the department they need to make cuts to, you may still lose your job regardless of how good you were at it.

Loyalty and your career

It’s a good reminder. Companies have a bottom line to manage, and they will not be loyal to you. I think we often fall into a trap of thinking that if we work hard and are loyal to a company, then that will be mutually expressed. In fact, companies often do talk a lot about caring for their employees and expecting employees to embrace the corporate culture and be loyal. I get it. I was on that side of the table before. And, many people do mean it. There are great managers who mean it and look out for their employees, even across companies. The HR people often do care about people on a personal level. I’ve worked with some wonderful people in HR and they did care and worked with me to support my team.

But, it is a bit deceptive when a company talks about loyalty at the corporate level. The hard, cold truth is that the company will not look out for employees and maintain their positions if the company needs to make changes for strategic or financial reasons. In other words, they will lay off employees as fast as possible when they need to. Never believe otherwise. Many, many times during my corporate career I had to lay off employees. Sometimes for performance reasons, but often for financial reasons and orders that came down from the top. We had no choice but to reduce our teams by 10%. Hard. Cold. Facts.

Looking for a job

I have always honestly told my employees to constantly be looking for career opportunities. I hate to lose good people. But, if they can advance their career significantly faster and better with a new job, they should (see Silicon Valley Promotion). The best time to look for that great new job is when you already have a job. It’s true. Once you are unemployed, it gets harder. Recruiters pursue you when you are already employed. They avoid you like the plague if you are not.

Start your own business

Better yet, start thinking about the business you want to create and the vision, mission, and values that you want for your own company. Rather than being held hostage to the whims of some employer, define your own path. It isn’t easy, and there is no guarantee of success. But, it is certainly rewarding to bring an idea to life. Many great companies started with a couple of friends who worked together, but spent their off hours building something new. Important: Never work on a business idea during your regular corporate work hours, or with work equipment, or on the corporate network if you want to keep the intellectual property separate. Also, review your employment agreement and make sure you can work on something on your own time.

Legal Considerations

California labor code protects employees to some extent, but check your state’s laws.

ARTICLE 3.5. Inventions Made by an Employee [2870 – 2872] ( Article 3.5 added by Stats. 1979, Ch. 1001. )

2870. (a) Any provision in an employment agreement which provides that an employee shall assign, or offer to assign, any of his or her rights in an invention to his or her employer shall not apply to an invention that the employee developed entirely on his or her own time without using the employer’s equipment, supplies, facilities, or trade secret information except for those inventions that either:
(1) Relate at the time of conception or reduction to practice of the invention to the employer’s business, or actual or demonstrably anticipated research or development of the employer; or
(2) Result from any work performed by the employee for the employer.
(b) To the extent a provision in an employment agreement purports to require an employee to assign an invention otherwise excluded from being required to be assigned under subdivision (a), the provision is against the public policy of this state and is unenforceable.
(Amended by Stats. 1991, Ch. 647, Sec. 5.)