She's a banker: This week, the Queen became our longest reigning monarch. Image: Shutterstock

Friday 11th September 2015


Is it possible to be in a job too long?

This week the Queen has become the longest-reigning monarch in British history. (Worldwide, the current King of Thailand is the only one who’s been in the job longer.) She’s been cosy on the throne for over 63 years, which is ages. Even reading the entire Game of Thrones series doesn’t take quite that long.

Sometimes people wonder if it isn’t cruel for her to not step down, allowing her son to claim the throne before he also needs a Stannah stairlift installed. Although people don’t say it too loud, because he’s a bit odd, and loves things like giant root vegetable competitions and homeopathy.

Anyway, the employee turnover stats for the royal family are pretty low. This stellar retention rate may well be driven by a culture of perks. Corgis, palaces, and many flunkies come as standard, not to mention “everything taken care of” package holidays to any Commonwealth country of your choice.

The only downside is they put your mug on every coin and note in your wallet, which we imagine is a little creepy.

Probably time to move on.

But for every other job that doesn’t have a few million quid’s worth of perks, is your diamond jubilee in a single role really something to be celebrating? How long is too long to hang around?

On average, someone sticks in a role for three to five years. Staying at a particular organisation for longer is fine, provided you’re moving up to better, or at least different, things.

So what are the main reasons not to overstay your welcome?

Lack of promotion

According to Terina Allen of the ARVis Institute: “The odds are if nothing happens in [five years], nothing more of value will ever happen for you with that employer because the longer you stay in the same job… the odds of getting promoted steadily decline.”

Maybe they rely on your skills in a certain role, or they don’t have faith in your potential. Maybe you shouldn’t have chosen the basement office.

Whatever the case, in the end your career is about you, and not who you work for. If your employer isn’t allowing you to progress or grow as a person, then you should probably find a new one.

Reduced income

Rightly or wrongly, like deals for new customers, every organisation is usually spending more time finding the new rather than looking after the old. When it comes to negotiating salary, swapping organisations regularly has been shown to increase your lifetime earning significantly.

While at an organisation, you can expect an annual pay rise in the region of 1-3%. Compare that to moving to a new job, where you can on average get 10-20%.

Clearly, there are disadvantages to being seen as a job hopper — if you jump ship enough times you look like a bad investment — but in reasonable moderation it nets a large increase in earnings.

We know money isn’t everything, but if you aren’t in love with your job, it is certainly something to consider.


Anything can lose its shine if you have to do it for years on end without variation. We promise that even those Lindor “master chocolatiers” end up very very sick of its rich, creamy taste. They may even develop an unnatural hatred of cows.

It’s sad, but working closely with something you love can often sour it for you. If you aren’t learning anything new or finding yourself challenged, at some point you’ll find yourself in a rut.

Noticed how all your commutes sort of blend into one? Your brain doesn’t bother to remember 1000 copies of the same thing. Likewise, ten years of the same old, same old is definitely long enough for your brain to be on autopilot almost all day.

That’s not good for you or your health — a lack of mental stimulation is implicated in depression and the development of Alzheimer’s. Plus, we hear it’s really boring.

Becoming part of the furniture

The longer something is there, the less attention you pay to it. That’s human nature — we notice things that stand out, not things that stay the same. Nobody noticed when we went to work wearing clothes every day. But when we didn’t, suddenly it was a big deal.

Management of any stripe may not care less about you on purpose. But you might find yourself and your personal needs noticed and helped less than newer, shinier colleagues.

Once you’ve proven yourself and blend into the background, few will be standing up for your interests or asking your opinion. You may even find yourself out in the cold socially, as the colleagues you joined with move up or out.

Getting outmoded

Staying in one place for an extended period of time can lead to some assumptions being made about you in just the same way as job hopping. Do you lack ambition? Were you considered unsuitable for promotion?

Even if you stayed around for good reasons, you may not always be given a chance to justify yourself.

Further to that, there may be questions about whether you are up to date with skills and developments in your field.

If you worked twenty years in an organisation where your HR software was a filing cabinet, you won’t have been keeping up with what makes you highly employable to an organisation now.

In the end, it’s not always wrong to wear a perfect groove into your office chair, but for most people change is healthy (and for your career.) If it takes 10,000 hours to master something, you’ll almost certainly be good as you’re going to get at your current job after five years.

So if the Queen is reading (we know she’s a regular), then who knows? It’s never too late to shake things up, your majesty.

About the author

Jerome Langford

Jerome is a graduate in Philosophy from St Andrews, who alternately spends time writing about HR and staring wistfully out of windows, thinking about life’s bigger questions: Why are we here? How much lunch is too much lunch? What do you mean exactly by ‘final warning’?