Imagine this scenario: You're watching a medal ceremony during the Olympic Games. The gold medalist won with a clear margin, but the silver medalist kicks up a fuss because he thinks he's entitled to the gold. He insists on getting the gold medal, even though the competition was fair and the winner deserved his place.
There'd be a huge outcry if the silver medalist was given the gold simply because he felt entitled to it. We'd probably all feel that it was unfair. After all, how could someone be called an "Olympic Gold Medalist" if he didn't actually win? No one gets given a game or a win - you have to earn it.
However far-fetched this scenario sounds, it's not uncommon in the workplace. People who have an entitlement mentality insist on being treated differently and getting extra benefits. They want the most, want to be seen as "special," and expect preferential treatment. When it comes to doing extra work or going the extra mile, though, they'll be quick to tell you that it's not their job.
People with an entitlement mentality may also not work as hard to learn more about their industry or improve at what they do, but think they should be promoted anyway because of how special they are.
They often feel entitled if they think that's the only way they're going to get somewhere. Or they may have never learned to take responsibility or to be accountable.
So what can you do if you end up with a co-worker or an employee with an entitlement mentality?
It may feel counterintuitive, but you can help entitled people by empowering them. Empowering people gives them the potential to change and to do things differently.
You can empower people by teaching them new skills, giving them responsibility, and holding them accountable. It also helps to allow them to participate in decision-making processes and to coach them to be better team players. Establishing a good work ethic as part of your team's culture is another sensible move.
Many organizations have at least one value statement that contains the word "empowerment." But I don't think I've ever seen a statement that reads, "We encourage our employees to have a sense of entitlement."
Having a sense of entitlement clashes with most organizations' values, even though it is often promoted by their culture.
Sustainable organizations are sustainable because of their values. Employees with a sense of entitlement, however, often don't work in a way that is beneficial to the business or that will help it grow. How does it happen, then, that employees develop a sense of entitlement? And what can be done about it?
During our last #MTtalk Twitter chat, held on Friday, September 2, 2016, we discussed "Empowerment vs Entitlement." It was clear from the responses that no one enjoys working with people who have a sense of entitlement!
Let's have a look at the questions we asked and some answers from participants:
Q1. What does a sense of entitlement look like at work?
A sense of entitlement at work puts the needs of an individual before the needs of the organization.
@cdemgo: When individual needs or wants must be met by the manager/company in order to keep motivated and productive.
@WonderPix: Expecting to get good things without putting the effort behind them.
Q2. What can cause people to feel entitled?
@harrisonia: Nepotism in the workplace can contribute to entitlement.
@ZenYinger: Reality is we are all standing on someone's shoulders. Nobody's success is 100% self made. Entitlement stems from ego.
Q3. Is a sense of entitlement more or less likely in different generations?
@ShereesePubHlth: It plays role due to availability of resources per generation. People born during Great Depression are less entitled than millennials.
@Midgie_MT: Could possibly be more with different generations with some feeling like they deserve things simply by time/age/experience.
Q4. What are the costs to the business of a sense of entitlement?
@SAPTAonline: A sense of entitlement can cost a business money, people, its reputation and growth. It's expensive.
@Yolande_MT: Sense of entitlement will often lead to people feeling like victims. They'll stir and cause trouble.
Q5. How can other employees' behavior be affected by a person who feels entitled?
There was an overall consensus that it can greatly influence team spirit and morale.
@JulieMRodriguez: If employees see entitled behavior rewarded, their morale will be shot and almost impossible to resuscitate.
@MicheleDD_MT: Creates conflict. Decrease in commitment to achieve goals. Team can be demoralized.
Q6. Personal accountability is empowerment. Agree/disagree? Explain.
@NootsCaboots: Agreed. Taking responsibility for your actions means that you're taking control, which can be very empowering.
@KrisGiere: Disagree. Accountability can fuel empowerment but is not empowerment. Empowerment comes from autonomy, motivation & mastery.
Q7. How do empowerment and entitlement compare?
@Dwyka_Consult: Empowered people ask, "How can I help?" Entitled people ask, "Why do I have to help?"
@PramodDrSolanki: Empowered leaders create empowerment. Those with entitlement create disengagement and conflict.
Q8. How can lacking a sense of empowerment affect performance?
If people don't feel empowered they won't go the extra mile.
@Singh_Vandana: The employee will be happy doing mediocre work and will never strive for excellence.
@Ganesh_Sabari: One who is not empowered may choose to remain safely inert/dormant. A mute, unquestioning spectator.
Q9. What can you start or stop doing to help others feel empowered?
A theme that emerged is that micromanaging people won't help them to feel empowered.
@TwisterKW: Let go. Give balanced feedback. Set clear goals/expectations. Expect them to succeed.
@PramodDrSolanki: Convey that you trust the person to do the right thing. Develop him to be able to act on his own. No micromanagement.
Q10. As leaders, how can we help replace entitlement with empowerment?
@GodaraAR: Push people to their extreme. The chair of comfort will make them complacent. Action happens on the "battlefield."
@comhunicate: Leaders need to recognize/celebrate when team bring their minds and ideas to work not just their bodies!
Our Twitter poll this week:
Which generation do you think has the strongest sense of entitlement? Please cast your vote here:
Twitter Poll: Which Generation Feels More Entitled?
Seeing that we've already touched on the generational issue, we'd like to explore it more during our next #MTtalk chat.
Managing people from a number of different generations can be tricky. What's right or fair to one generation isn't right or fair to another. To some generations, a good work ethic is almost all that counts, while others hold work-life balance as more important. Some may question authority, while others wouldn't dream of doing so. How, then, do you manage a multi-generational team?
Our #MTtalk topic on September 16 is "Managing Multiple Generations." As always, it will take place at 1 p.m. EST (6 p.m. BST). We'd love you to join us on Twitter to share some of your ideas and experience.
To participate in the chat, type #MTtalk in the Twitter search function. Then, click on "All Tweets" and you'll be able to follow the live chat. To join the conversation, simply include #MTtalk in your tweet and it will show up in the feed.
In the meantime, if you'd like to learn more about empowerment and entitlement, here are some resources:
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