How long is too long?

Neil ButlerUntypical Thoughts

I recently read about someone who had just completed 50 years of service for their company. 50 years! Wow! Well done, her.

But, upon reflection, I wondered whether I should be impressed or concerned for her and the company she works for.

Let’s take the positive approach and consider how much she has contributed to the organisation that she has called home for the past 50 years – that’s something around 11,250 days at work or close enough to 90,000 hours of her life spent working for and investing energy and effort into the same organisation. She would have witnessed so many changes over the years – being that she started in 1970, that means she would have seen the introduction of fax machines (remember those?), a computer for each person, call centres, mobile phones, working from home, teleconferencing and so much more. Likewise she would seen the demise of shorthand, smoking in the office, fax machines (remember those?), typing pools and a range of other features of office life in the 70s, 80s and 90s.

But is working for the same organisation for a long, long, long time a good thing?

Yes, it shows commitment and it shows loyalty. But does it suggest on-going growth, breadth of experience, opportunities to step outside comfort zones? I think not. At what point does loyalty become laziness? At what point does feeling comfortable become stale?

So, addressing the initial question – how long is too long? Is working in the same role for three years too long? Is working for the same organisation for ten years too long – don’t forget that long service leave typically kicks in at ten years, so that must be considered long service!

I am by no means being critical or judgmental nor do I have the answer that is the right answer for everyone – indeed I am just asking the question.

How long is too long?

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