"You Don't Owe Them Loyalty": This Gen X CEO Shared Her 3 Big Career Lessons, And As A Millennial, I Approve

The world of work has been changing rapidly, especially since the pandemic began. And for many of us, the old-school career advice we grew up hearing now feels as if it came from another dimension.

Man peeking over a cubicle wall
Man peeking over a cubicle wall

Apple TV / Via giphy.com

Recently, 51-year-old former CEO Denise Conroy made a splash on TikTok when she shared the three career lessons she wishes someone had told her sooner, and her advice really speaks to the way people are currently feeling about work.

Former CEO Denise Conroy

Denise has a background in market research and marketing, and she landed her first CEO role in 2014. Formerly chief marketing officer at HGTV, she has been a CEO at three companies and currently runs Themy, a coaching and advisory business for women and other people underrepresented in the C-suite.

Denise Conroy

In the video, which has been viewed more than 2 million times on TikTok, Denise shares these three lessons:

I'm a former ceo 3 things I wish someone had told me earlier in my career
@denise_conroy / Via tiktok.com

1.Jump Jobs

Man saying "I quit"
Man saying "I quit"

SNL / Via giphy.com

In the video, Denise explains, "Number one, jump jobs. Jumping jobs gets a really, really bad rap. And I have learned over my 30-year career, jumping jobs is rational, it's sane, it's how you make moves, bold moves, in your career. It's how you make more money, it's how you get promoted; you shore up your skill set. Jump until your heart's content."

2.Don't Feel You Owe Your Company Loyalty

People working in an office

Denise says, "You owe your company respect, the services that you promise that you will provide in the course of your job, and all those duties. You owe them great performance. You owe them great attendance, but you do not owe them loyalty. Let's save loyalty for our personal relationships."

Nitat Termmee / Getty Images

3.People Leave Bad Bosses, so Don't Be One

An employee holding a coffee mug

Denise's third lesson is one that managers everywhere can use. She says, "People don't leave jobs. They leave bosses — specifically, they leave two types of bosses. First type of boss is a toxic boss, a bad boss, somebody who harasses you, micromanages you, maybe ignores you, gives you the silent treatment.

"The second type of boss, though, that people leave more often than not is a boss that fails to see you. That's a boss who doesn't give you credit, doesn't think about your growth, doesn't think about your development, doesn't come through with the raise or promotion that they promise over and over again. Those bosses get left all the time. Don't be one of those types of bosses."

Delmaine Donson / Getty Images

And in the comments, people are sharing how jumping jobs, rethinking loyalty, and leaving bad bosses have helped them in their own careers.

Comments: Three jobs in 7.5 years grew my salary 125%, loyalty doesn't mean shit anymore, bad managers and bad supervisors get left
@denise_conroy / Via tiktok.com

Denise told BuzzFeed that she learned these lessons the hard way, which is why she's sharing her knowledge now. She explained that when she was fresh out of grad school, she worked under a boss named Muriel who seemed great on paper — brilliant mind, lots of experience, and (in theory) plenty to teach a young worker.

Women shaking hands over a table
Fotostorm / Getty Images

Unfortunately, Denise said, "Muriel’s value was lost in her mean and abusive demeanor. She used to yell at me, demean me, and insult my intelligence. I wasn’t special. She treated everyone this way. I worked extra hours and weekends to try to please her, and she just didn’t see me. She took zero interest in my development and relished berating me. Decades later, I can still remember her saying, 'You’re down here, and I need you UP HERE' – obnoxious hand gestures and everything."

Meryl Streep glowering in The Devil Wears Prada
Meryl Streep glowering in The Devil Wears Prada

20th Century Fox / Via giphy.com

(What in the Miranda Priestly?? She sounds awful.)

Denise continued, "That was when I learned three valuable lessons. First, people don’t leave jobs; they leave bosses. These bosses are usually toxic or don’t see us. In this woman’s case, she was both. I enjoyed my job and was making an impact on an exciting initiative, but I couldn’t tolerate her abuse."

Woman writing her resignation
Pcess609 / Getty Images/iStockphoto

This experience also opened her eyes about the concept of company loyalty. "Second, I learned that jumping jobs is sane and economically rational," she said. "It’s not disloyal. I grew up in a poor family where the notion of loyalty to one’s employer prevailed. But I was so miserable at this job that I started looking after working there only 18 months."

Woman packing up her desk
Pcess609 / Getty Images/iStockphoto

And ultimately, leaving Muriel behind was the best decision for Denise. "I landed another job at a boutique management consulting firm that mostly worked for clients in the metals industry. It was a 30% pay increase, with the opportunity to travel internationally. I took it."

Happy woman in an office throwing paperwork in the air
Domoyega / Getty Images

She added, "I’ll never forget giving my resignation to Muriel. The first words out of her mouth were about loyalty and me being a job jumper. Then she tried to scare me, telling me the metals industry was dying. Her last words to me were, 'You’ll be sorry.' That move was pivotal in my career. I was promoted three times at that consulting firm, more than doubled my salary, and got my first experience in boardrooms around the globe."

Stacks of coins getting bigger, symbolizing a higher salary
Teera Konakan / Getty Images

Denise also wants to encourage younger women not to put up with poor treatment at work. "We women deal with a lot of toxicity and abuse in the workplace," she said. "At some point in your life, you’ll likely be in a toxic work situation. It will be so toxic that you’ll make yourself smaller and smaller to survive, virtually washing away your identity. You’ll agonize about choosing yourself or economic security. It’s a grueling choice. Always have the courage to choose you. That means quitting and betting on your ability to find your next thing. Believe that you can, and you will."

Woman saying, "I'm tired of being slept on I'm tired of being underrated"
Woman saying, "I'm tired of being slept on I'm tired of being underrated"

HBO Max / Via giphy.com

She shared that it's okay to leave a "dream job" if it turns out to be more like a nightmare. Success is about so much more than what your title looks like on paper. She explained, "I worked at HGTV for three years. It was the most toxic place I’ve ever worked. One day, I quit on the spot…no safety net, no backup. I was terrified no one would ever hire me again. It was supposed to be a dream job, so I convinced myself something was wrong with me and I deserved to be harassed and bullied."

Stressed-out woman working in an office late at night
Jay Yuno / Getty Images

She continued, "After a few months of being out of that environment, I discovered who I was again. I found my backbone and reclaimed my soul. A few months later, I landed my first CEO job. Hands down, leaving that toxic environment was the best (and scariest) career move I’ve ever made."

Note on a keyboard that says "I quit"
Tanaonte / Getty Images/iStockphoto

This spirit of putting herself first in her career also motivated Denise to start her own business. "I was part of the Great Resignation — or, as I like to call it, the Great Awakening. I’d been a CEO at my third company for only six months, and I quit to start my own coaching and advisory business. At 50, I was tired of still being the only woman and the youngest in the boardroom. I decided to be the change I wanted to see in the world by propelling more women into positions of power. We’re all familiar with kingmakers. I’m a queenmaker."

Follow Denise on TikTok.