Life & Work

Is it wise to stay in a role for too long?

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The five-year rule allows you to pause and reflect. PHOTO | POOL

Staying in a company or a role for long may show loyalty and commitment, desirable qualities that employers like, but some career coaches argue that it is a sign of employee complacency and laziness.

In a growing market, how else will you show relevance, career growth, and development if you stay in one role or company for too long?

Being in one industry and serving in one role breeds questions of being institutionalised and being a little bit one-dimensional, therefore every employee should strive to be diverse, especially with the changing technological times.

In a changing job market, the fact that you as an employee stay on a payroll is meaningless, you must also know why you are staying there.

This would protect one from being declared redundant. So for how long should one stay in a company?

David Njuguna, a human resource partner at Rubis Energies Kenya says the duration in which one stays with a company should be guided by the diversity of the organisation, as well as its ability to evolve, plus accommodate employee growth.

The set of skills an employee should be gathering while in a role or company determines their stay or exit.

“At the beginning, the employee is learning the basics — how to interact with people, communicate and report. After some years, this employee is gathering business, managerial and leadership skills. These are being learnt on the job or other forums,” he says.

Failure to hone these skills should be a red flag to an employee.

Though employee growth should not be pegged on the employer alone, Mr Njuguna argues that the latter is at the backbone of an employee’s progression.

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“The work environment, mission, vision, and goals shape one's career.”

This fosters a symbiotic relationship between the employer and employee, though the biggest stake is from the employer.

Additionally, not getting challenging opportunities while at the workplace has also been a consideration to pack and leave.

Employees who are accustomed to doing the same routine day-in-day-out jobs tend to feel limited and curtailed of their potential.

So what are the ideal timelines to stay in a role?

Sarah Omaya, a human resource manager at Africa Biosystems adds that although there is no timeline for staying in a company provided an employee is growing, the latter should not exceed five years.

“If you are nearing the five-year mark, assess where you are and what else is out there. Always keep your eyes open,” she says, adding that this discourages institutionalisation.

After five years, employees should be moved to other roles to pick up skills and competencies that are not possible to learn in just one business quarter.

Similarly, companies have a five-year business plan where they do a check to ascertain that they are on the right path, and so should employees.

The five-year rule allows you to pause and reflect.

Rotational jobs come with perks, help in building networks, learning new skills, engaging in new ideas, experiencing new challenges and opening up career options.

In contrast, the disadvantage of staying in a role for a long time is being a victim of retrenchment or your position being declared redundant.

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“No company moves with dead weight,” Ms Omaya notes.

Managers who are in a role for a long may better understand a company’s history and know the loopholes but they are also victims of complacency and contempt that comes with familiarity.

“It is hard to replant a tree that has had its roots way too deep. The business world is evolving and the head can fail to open up and adapt to the changing ways,” she says.

Yet while the five-year rule remains the optimum, age and job security matter.

Baby Boomers and prior generations typically spent much of their careers in one organisation. Younger workers job-hop more than previous generations, acquiring new skills or securing a better package.

If you have been in a job for over 10 years and have held one job title that can also attract worry unless the position you are holding is at the top most and there is nowhere else to climb.

However, although staying in a role for a long time is worrying enough so is staying for a short period.

Mr Njuguna notes that a curriculum vitae that shows a year or less in a particular role or company can raise red flags for the job-seeker.

“When an employee has changed more than three jobs and has stayed there for less than a year then it is a worrying trend that breeds more questions than answers,” he says.

The bottom line is an employee’s career growth and the perks that come with it should dictate the duration they stay or leave.

Should you then start thinking of getting out gracefully before you stay on a job or a company too long?

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