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Job Commitment & Loyalty: Would you Sign a Job Contract?

Last updated by on January 3, 2015

I have a good hypothetical for you on job loyalty. And I haven’t done a good ole’ fashion reader poll in ages. So, it’s time.

Let me first set this one up with some context.

Most of us in Gens X and Y have parents who have or had one job for the large majority of their working career. My father, for example, worked in state government from the moment he graduated until retirement. My father-in-law had the same job since he was 18 until just this past year. This was more of the norm than the exception.

For younger generations, I would expect this to be the EXTREMELY rare exception.

In an article I wrote a few years ago on telling your employer about changing careers, I highlighted U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics that showed:

  • For ages 23-27, 75% of workers were with their employer for less than 2 years, and 88% less than 5 years.
  • For ages 28-32, 68% of workers were with their employer for less than 2 years, and 84% less than 5 years.

We are clearly some combination of:

  • disloyal
  • ungrateful
  • ADD-ridden and easily bored
  • wise
  • self-confident
  • or useless and easy to fire

At the same time, the unemployment rate is still hovering around 8% and we all noted how ruthlessly employers let go of their employees at the first hint of recession (my wife was one of them). There’s almost a sense that you are lucky these days if you have ANY job.

We live in an age of, for better or worse, at-will employment. Employer’s are free to discharge individuals “for good cause, or bad cause, or no cause at all,” and the employee is equally free to quit, strike, or otherwise cease work.

But what if that weren’t the case?

job contractWhat if you were locked in to your employer? And your employer was locked in to you? What if you were offered to sign a job contract? Gasp!

Now, I don’t want to get in to a debate about whether this is good or bad for the labor market, I just want to know – would you do it? Would you commit? And why or why not?

So, here’s the job contract offer:

You and your employer would sign a contract for you to work for them for the next 10 years. If you break the contract, you are legally responsible to re-pay 50% of what you earned. If your employer breaks the contract, they must make an additional lump-sum payment of 50% over what you have already earned.

Consider it a question of voluntary loyalty.

Would you sign the contract? (vote & then share why in the comments)

View Results

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  • MR says:

    I think the more interesting story is that we’re in an age of specialization. Employees today each have unique skills and abilities that may be useful and important to an employer at a given time. A year from now those skills may be less critical to the business and hold less value. Both the employer and the employee benefit from this arrangement as the employer pays for the value received from the employee and the employee receives pay for the value provided. Once that value decreases, the employee is able to go find another employer that is willing to pay the wage they deserve (likely higher given their increased experience).

    Obviously there are drawbacks in the short term to this environment. Free-loading is significantly more difficult. And if you see a job as a job, just a way to pay the bills, then the lack of stability is probably frustrating. But in the long run the economic drivers in the background create more wealth and prosperity for both sides.

    I answered your specific question No because I believe signing such an agreement would greatly limit my income potential, not to mention greatly limit my ability to choose how I spend my time, a luxury at many times more valuable than money.


  • Emily @ evolvingPF says:

    Not for 10 years, no, not at this stage of life. Maybe 2-4 years. Frankly I’m not sure that I will want to continue working full-time for a few years after we start having kids (I believe this is something I cannot know until one arrives), so it would be foolish for me to sign such a long-term contract in my fertile years. Perhaps later in life when we are done having kids it would be something to consider.

    Actually, I just spoke with a friend who is in a similar situation to the one you proposed. He received a fellowship for his postdoc position and if he left after 1 year instead of staying for the full 2 years he would have had to repay all the money the fellowship had paid out i.e. his full salary. He was told when he signed the contract that the purpose was to guarantee that he wouldn’t jump ship for law school halfway through the work.

    And actually, while I’m not in the situation exactly that you described, I am locked into my job in a different way. I don’t want to leave my PhD program without my degree, which will take about 6 years total. If I left without the degree, the opportunity cost I’m experiencing by committing to graduate school will be hugely amplified. My boss is also motivated to see me through the program because students who leave without a degree are black marks on his reputation within the university, plus he paid them during their least productive years without seeing them through to the highly-productive end of the degree.

  • Mike says:

    I haven’t done anything the same for 10 years. What if I get in the job, and a year later I hate it. Then I am stuck for 9 years. Yuck!

  • Emily says:

    I voted no; there’s just too many things that could happen in the next ten years. I have no intention of going anywhere, but in case something came up . . .

    The only advantage would be if I worked somewhere where they fired people often and I really wanted them not to be able to fire me. But I’ve found that companies where everyone’s always afraid for their jobs aren’t much fun to work for, so I wouldn’t be that keen to hold onto a job at such a place.

  • Ray says:

    I think signing a work contract with your employer can be a good idea; especially in a right to work state where you could be fired without cause.
    If you have a 2-3 year contract, you have legal language which spells out your position, scope of work, salary and expectations for performance. The contract should also include specified annual raises for the term of the agreement.
    I these times, a work contract can be a very good idea. Just remember that most employee contracts also have annual options, where the company notifies you of their intention to renew your contract for the following year. But you have the same rights that the company does.

  • Honey says:

    We get one-year contracts each year at my employer (on the staff side, anyway). I’m 33 and been with my employer over 4 years, no plans to leave.

  • Eric says:

    I wouldn’t sign a work contract, unless they guaranteed some percentage of pay increase each year. Otherwise you are giving up a chance of making more money.

  • I think it would depend on the terms of the contract. If there were a guaranteed minimum raise each year with the option of a higher raise/bonus based on performance, I might be open to it.

  • Chasa says:

    I voted ‘no’. I would be most concerned about my boss and my colleagues. Also, being railroaded in a certain direction. If your company doesn’t see you going beyond X, and you do, that’s an issue. Also, for me, job satisfaction is at least 50% about my boss and my colleagues. If the mix isn’t right, I would only put up with it for so long. There’s no way I could commit to 10 years without knowing some crucial variables. That being said, I’m 27, have been with the same company for 4 years and plan to remain here at least another 2 to 3. I seem to be pretty change averse in the job sphere, as compared to contemporaries, even if my opinions point to flexibility/non-loyalty.

  • Michelle says:

    I did sign such a contract. And if I try to leave, I can be thrown in jail for absence without leave. It’s called being in the military. When I joined the Coast Guard last year, I had to sign on for 4 years. I had to add a year to that to get the bonus being offered to my particular job rate. When I get within a year of my release date, I can “re-up”, sign a new contract for another 4 years. At this point, the only thing I could get kicked out for is violating a civil law and/or an article of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. After 20 years, the military is allowed to force you into retirement to open up the ranks for advancement. If you don’t like it, tough shit. While most companies wouldn’t want such an arrangement, because it reduce their flexibility to respond to economic changes, I’m honestly surprised most people wouldn’t sign one. I signed up for the military to have a guaranteed income to help me pay off some debt and to help finance grad. school in the future. Sometimes you have to do a job you are indifferent towards or dislike to get to where you need to be. I like being in the CG, but even if I didn’t, I still made a commitment I have to honor.

    • G.E. Miller says:

      Great dissenting view. And thank you for your service.

    • John C says:

      I was in the US Navy for 4 yrs myself.. There is a big difference between the military and the civilian job market. Your not paid based on your skill but rather by your Rank! Is it fair that you bust your ass and yet have shipmates who are constantly goin to Captains Mast or on restriction, make the same money as you???

      I signed a 5 year contract with my previous employer. I was paid based on my past experiences. In my contract was a guarantee for my pay raises and each year served was a reduction of my housing allowance. They paid a percentage towards my mortgage. I was on a relocation pkg. as well.

      The point is that even though I still had 2 1/2 yrs left on my contract, I decided to leave and move back to my home town. They never came after me for any money or restitution for my relocation.

  • Federal Worker says:

    I find this article interesting because being a Federal employee, it’s almost impossible to get fired. Once employees understand they are “safe” from being fired, their productivity seems to decrease. Just like simple economics, competition creates better products, better efficiencies, and better prices. So no threat equals no drive to change your ways. Perhaps because a contract would potentially have an end date, this wouldn’t be the case? But from personal experience, being guaranteed a job often times does not create the work product one would hope.

  • Growth Potential says:

    I answered Yes. I work in a financial technology firm that is growing rapidly and there is a never ending cycle of learning and growth in this space (especially with the onset of Dodd Frank and Basel III). The main reason I would sign a job contract with my company is because I know that there is so much room for my personal learning and growth. If that were not the case, then I would have answered No, because I hate feeling bored and stuck in one place in a job.

  • Jon D says:

    I’d definitely sign it, especially in this current economic climate.Having a 10 year job guarantee in this era is an amazing thing.

  • AJ says:

    4 years max. I barely know what I’m going to decide in two years, yet I would be signing away my career for 10? Can’t do it, part of being a 20something is flexibility that we don’t have in the late 30s and 40s. What if the boss who hired you, with whom you have a great working relationship leaves? Things change, 10 years is just a bad idea.

  • Kira says:

    I answered No, because I have signed a similar contract and now hate my job with a passion but because of said contract are tied into it for another two years. The contract I signed was tuition reimbursement where you need to work for the employer for two tears after they reimburse you for classes or you owe them the money. I have also signed the same two year contract for my green card. Both were very stupid moves on my side! First, I already had a masters degree, I did not need a second one! And second, I signed the green card contract when I was not even sure I wanted to stay in the US, which I obviously don’t but am tied into for the next two years now! Thanks to these contracts my employer thinks that it is OK to tell me there is no promotion track for my position and I am sitting at the same boring job for 5 years now! And I will not get promoted out of it no matter how hard I try. They also think it is OK to pay me in the lowest quartile of the salary for my job title as well when if I could find a new job I would be paid 1.5 times to 2 times what I currently get! So no, if I could do it over again, I would not sign any of those contracts! Signing something like that is pretty much career suicide as it was in my case!

  • Ron Ablang says:

    I’d have to say no, because your experience w/ a job can depend largely upon who your boss is and whether or not you can get along w/ each other. Bosses can also come and go so it’d be hard to commit to anything for that long.

  • Natasha says:

    10 years, job stability. Hell yeah! I HATE INTERVIEWS! Just the thought of ever having to go on one makes my skin crawl. Mistreat me, underpay me; I don’t care. Just don’t fire me.

  • Holly Thrifty says:

    I would have never signed in my younger years, but now about 10 years away from my desired retirement age, I would.

    When you are in your 30s and 40s this is a risky proposition. In most cases, you can advance your career by changing jobs. To limit your options would be silly.


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