Regardless of your line of work, you should be passionate about your job. As long as you love what you do, you will find ways to be happy doing it. Sometimes, however, some employers will take advantage of this fact and exploit loyal workers by assigning them thankless responsibilities — with zero to little compensation.

How Some Managers Exploit Loyal Workers

Duke University researchers recently conducted a study and found that far too many bosses seek employees who are willing to go “above and beyond” their job duties. Dr. Matthew Stanley, the lead researcher, along with his team, gathered about 1,400 managers and asked them a series of questions regarding a fictional employee named “John” — a 29-year-old who’s in need of money.

The managers were given different scenarios — they made John have different traits; such as the “Loyal John,” “Honest John,” “Fair John,” “Disloyal John,” etc. No matter the circumstance, most managers kept choosing “Loyal John” to be the version of John that they were most likely to hire — and assign additional, unpaid responsibilities to.

However, the managers didn’t solely choose “Loyal John” because of his willingness to work without extra compensation. In the study, even after the managers were asked if that version of John wasn’t willing to work without compensation, they still chose that type of John because he’s a loyal employee.

Loyalty, in this case, is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it can help a person land a job (as it seems that it’s what managers like to recruit), but the study also shows that loyal employees are the ones who are more likely to be preyed upon and given unpaid tasks.

The Balance Between Being Exploited and Being Dedicated to One’s Job

To be called loyal is one of the highest forms of compliment that anyone can receive. However, since some bosses also take advantage of this positive characteristic that many employees possess, a worker has to eventually draw a line somewhere — refusing to work extra hours or taking on additional tasks without pay doesn’t necessarily make an employee less loyal to their boss or company. Furthermore, asking to be paid doesn’t equate to greediness, either. It’s simply an employee just knowing their worth and what they bring to the enterprise.

As for managers, there’s no harm in being more sensitive and aware of their team’s needs — and it doesn’t have to be on a personal level. Regardless of their employees’ priorities inside and outside of work, everyone is vulnerable to work burnout. When their loyal employees are assigned important tasks and are subjected to pressure with little to no compensation, they, too, might start questioning their value to the company. That said, if an employee is worthy of being rewarded based on their contributions, you, as a manager can consider giving your team member a raise or promotion.


Loyal employees are vital to any workforce. Unfortunately, some managers fail to appreciate their contributions and exploit loyal workers instead. To make things worse, their co-workers often don’t realize the value they bring to the business, either. To find common ground, the best way for both employers and employees to work harmoniously is by understanding each other’s work needs, job responsibilities, and fair compensation for the laborers.

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