Individuals with an entitlement mentality believe that they have special rights by virtue of their age, gender, socioeconomic status, education, role in the workplace and pretty much any other little reason for which someone craves special treatment. In recent years, the entitlement mentality seems to have become more prevalent than ever before. "We complain about the young exhibiting it, but a middle-aged executive can believe he deserves something unearned from an organization just as much as a recent college graduate," said Sue Thompson, president, Exceptionality LLC, Wilmington, DE.
Entitlement might also occur when something that was originally a positive in life eventually becomes the norm and expected. "It no longer adds value to your life if it is expected," explained Jason Beans, CEO, Rising Medical Solutions, a Chicago-based medical cost containment and care management company. "If it does not happen, it results in negative emotions such as being sad, depressed or angry.
|The common messages behind the values taught to children transcend cultural, ethnic, gender, religious and economic differences. According to Eric Chester, children worldwide are taught "Universal Sandbox Values" (column 1). These translate into what employers are looking for in an employee (column 2).
ADVANCE thanks Chester E. Reviving Work Ethic: A Leader's Guide to Ending Entitlement and Restoring Pride in the Emerging Workforce. Greenleaf Book Group Press, Austin, TX. 2012. Pg. 24.
In the workplace, individuals with a chip on their shoulder stir up coworkers over every small issue or because they read somewhere that another company has something they desire. "One perk is never enough to make them happy," Beans said.
Wherever people of differing backgrounds and experiences are gathered, the entitlement mentality can easily creep in. "It only takes one person with this character-less mindset to throw his or her 'I-should-have-this-because-I'm-special' weight around and cause a tsunami of ill will," Thompson warned. "It's often childish, usually destructive, and, unfortunately, is rarely considered serious enough to address. Not addressing it creates resentment and hopelessness, and when employees are resentful and feel there's nothing that can or will be done about such a person, a company is churning with waves of bitterness. But it will be noticed, eventually, by that laboratory's clients."
Nipping Entitlement in the Bud
Changing the attitude of an entitlement-minded employee requires a manager to have a hard conversation with him or her, which must be direct, clear and unequivocal, particularly if the employee's behavior is affecting their coworkers' performance.
Thompson and Eric Chester, founder and CEO, Reviving Work Ethic, Inc., and author of Reviving Work Ethic advise taking these five steps for disciplinary action:
Address behavior, not attitude. Use specific examples and avoid using terms such as "feeling" and "thinking," (e.g., I feel like you think we owe you a new microscope).
Reference observable behavior, (e.g., "You walked away while I was speaking to you about a new microscope and did not answer my calls for the rest of the day.").
Explain that this behavior is affecting coworkers/yourself/your performance/team morale, etc. Allow an employee to explain why he or she may not be performing up to expectations. This will allow managers to effectively determine whether or not an employee is worth saving, (i.e., investing time and resources in developing, or whether they simply are a bad fit. "This is a process dubbed 'groom 'em or broom 'em' and great managers know how and when to make this crucial determination," said Chester).
Explain that the behavior must be addressed and be clear about the consequences, (e.g., written up, removed from a team or even fired). If you decide to offer a reward for improvement, Beans advises to do it randomly. "If positive reinforcement happens at the same time every day or month, for instance, an employee will soon expect a regular reward and thus, entitlement creeps back into the workplace yet again," he said.
Finally, if the employee does not show improvement, the manager must do what he or she said would be done if that occurred.
Expect the same results as you would from any disciplinary counseling session: improvement or consequences. This is why a manager must note observable behavior, not "attitude," which is nebulous. The employee will either resist or comply. If the employee improves, your problem is solved. If the employee resists, you provide the consequences, even up to termination, in which case your problem is solved.
A visible representation of entitlement will poison your staff and will eventually communicate itself in some way to your clients, patients and associates. If the entitlement mentality has not yet affected co-workers or job performance, you still have a right to address it if it's affecting you. "Would you tolerate someone sticking a needle into your eye once a week just because they felt like doing it?" Thompson asked. "So don't tolerate what makes your life miserable. Just be sure to address observable behavior and be clear and direct."
Added Chester, "We can't teach members of the emerging workforce the values of work ethic and then simply sit back and watch as they go about blazing a new trail that changes the world. Some will become masters of it and go on to teach it to others around them, but not without time and practice on their part and patience and persistence on your part."
That's why you must never stop assessing the progress of your employees. Continue to clarify your expectations. Keep on mentoring and teaching the importance of core work ethic values such as positive attitude, reliability, professionalism and integrity.
Karen Appold is an editorial consultant. Visit www.WriteNowServices.com for more information.
Entitlement: Rooted in Child Rearing
The American culture cultivates an entitlement mentality early on by steering children toward
the talents that the world values-such as athletics, singing, dancing and acting. "Parents,
coaches, teachers and other leaders of young people get caught up in the fame and lose their
balance when they don't also teach them the skills and the follow-through that come with less
glamorous labor-mowing lawns, waiting tables, prepping and painting a wall, washing clothes
and keeping a room clean," says Eric Chester, founder and CEO, Reviving Work Ethic, Inc., and
author of Reviving Work Ethic.
Some children are pushed too hard and too fast; they work endless hours to become stars and
end up burning out, Chester continues. But they are the exceptions. Less obvious-but living in
just as much danger-are the ones who absorb mountains of praise without any foundation other
than a sense of entitlement.