I see entitlement discussed by managers in deflated terms like there is nothing to be done about it; it is ‘out of their control’. Although, this is no different to any other leadership issue we encounter. As managers, it is simply our latest ‘people’ issue. As employees, venture strides ahead in avoiding such behaviours and potential career derailers!
What is Entitlement: In general, we see the definition of entitlement as the belief you are inherently or more deserving of special privileges and rights. Everyone wants to be valued and acknowledged. These are our essential needs. We all have them. When these needs are absent, we can all behave in a way that might be perceived as entitled.
Only when that sense is unrealistic and inflamed should we worry we are playing the entitlement game.
What it looks like at work: Co-workers claiming acknowledgment for ideas, work, or projects where their contribution has been very little or none at all, asking for assistance when they are really asking for someone else to do their work for them, not putting in the same level of effort as everyone else, blaming others for their own mistakes, not taking feedback graciously and prone to taking it personally, expecting salary increases simply for being present in a role, booking annual leave, without considering the time to be in high demand or conflict with other’s requests, expecting others to pick up their workload because of ‘their’ commitments; family, sport, study etc.
In addition, this trait usually leads to increased arguments, defensive behaviour, and sometimes emotional outbursts. Simply put, entitled workers are not great with team-play and may be distractive to other co-workers when their expectations are not met.
What does it feel like to be on the receiving end of entitled behaviour? It is not great! You might feel disregarded, ignored, and dismissed. It is hard to feel anything else if the ‘entitled’ persons fundamental belief is that they are somehow better or more deserving than you? Team members/co-workers often find themselves walking over eggshells when working with these individuals. If you have received feedback that you have been behaving in an entitled way, it is essential to understand how your colleagues may feel when working with you.
It is hard to get ahead in your career when your behaviour is considered entitled.
What causes entitlement: Here is the best news! Often people are not aware they are behaving in an entitled way. They might view themselves as being assertive and think they are operating appropriately. This is where managers with great people skills can peel back the layers in uncovering entitlement for what it is, often centred around maturity, insecurity or a need that is not beneficial for either party.
Once the person becomes aware the behaviour is interfering with their growth; they will also understand their ability to form harmonious relationships with others might be problematic. Self-awareness and EQ all play a part in having good interpersonal skills. Excellent interpersonal skills will mean you, with ease, get along well with other workers, and they regard you in the same manner.
Unfortunately, when entitlement prevails, humility is banished, which does not allow for compatible and effective relationships. Excellent interpersonal skills and entitlement do not blend.
How to manage entitlement: As hiring managers or business owners, reflect upon how the situation has occurred in the first place? Were the traits always apparent but not picked up on at the interview, or has your environment enabled this behaviour to become more pronounced?
Early on, in the hiring stage, be transparent in explaining company values. Chart the correct path for how rewards, progression, and expectations work. By not doing so, it may lead to false expectations on the side of your new employee, manifesting in the behaviour seen as ‘entitlement’.
In managing someone with entitlement, provide feedback with specific examples for clarity of the explanation. Simply telling someone there are behaving in an entitled way may reinforce the behaviour, and you are likely to see more entitlement, not less! If this is the first time they are receiving such feedback, tread gently. Gradually and regularly, build them up to receive input and acknowledgement for their work and contribution.
If you receive such feedback, develop and work on your self-awareness to see, hear and feel the feedback. Self-awareness will assist with self-regulating and adjusting your behaviours as you witness firsthand the impact, even if just a cursory comment. Working on your self-confidence will also assist in breaking the pattern that may blind you to your behaviours.
Behaving in an entitled manner sends a negative impression to those you work with. We all want to be perceived in the way to which we believe to be true to ourselves.
If you are acting in an entitled manner or any other behaviour that is inconducive to your future and career, far better, you uncover this trait and look to fix it.
Also, understanding this behaviour in a broader, more benign perspective, as a by-product of the time we live in, can lead us to be more gentle and less judgmental when encountering and speaking about it. After all, we can all be entitled on occasion!
“When we replace a sense of service and gratitude with a sense of entitlement and expectation, we quickly see the demise of our relationships, society, and economy.”― Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience