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Why entitlement is a career derailer

Roxanne Calder - author

Entitlement has always been present in our workforce–to some degree. Social norms have changed dramatically over the past few decades. Since we respect, value and encourage individuality more in today’s world, what was hidden before is now swimming to the surface. The sense of authority and ‘whose place is where’–old hierarchy in our society, work and families has shifted. Before the structure was more firm, and so was the behaviour. I see it discussed in deflated terms like there is nothing to be done about it. That is not the case, and it’s no different to any other leadership or ‘people’ issue we encounter. Entitlement is simply today’s issue.

As employees, do yourself a big career favour and be on the other side of this coin. Instead, venture strides ahead in avoiding such behaviours and career derailers!

  1. What is entitlement: The belief you are inherently or more deserving of special privileges and rights. Psychologists define entitlement as a personality trait and learned behaviour, which can also be unlearned by definition.

Entitled individuals believe they deserve more than others and feel an increased sense of ‘right’ (no matter the rules or norms) and when it is not achived, they are negative, disappointed and angry.

  1. What it looks like in the workforce: 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, salary increases simply for being present in a role, booking annual leave without consideration of others, expecting others to pick up the workload because of their commitments; family, sport, study, etc.

Team members (co-workers) may often find themselves walking on eggshells with these individuals, who also tend to blame others often for their own mistakes, don’t take feedback graciously and are prone to take things personally. In addition, this trait usually leads to increased arguments, defensive behaviour and sometimes emotional outbursts. Simply put, they are not great with team-play and may be distractive to other co-workers when their expectations are not met. Unfortunately, when entitlement prevails, humility is banished, and that doesn’t provide for harmonious and effective relationships. Great interpersonal skills and entitlement do not often go together.

  1. What does it feel like? If you are on the receiving end of entitled behaviour, you may be feeling disregarded, ignored, dismissed and belittled. If you have received feedback that you may be entitled, it’s important to note and understand how your colleagues may be feeling. You will undoubtedly struggle to get ahead in your career if your behaviour is considered entitled.

As there are degrees/levels of entitlement from mild to inflamed/grave, individuals can also be innovative, intelligent, educated and totally brilliant. It is essential to remember that their specialness and thus entitlement is not about what they do but who they think they are.

  1. 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 This is where leaders with great people skills can peel back the layers in uncovering entitlement for what it is, and that’s often centred around a lack of maturity, insecurity or a need that is not being served for either party.
  1. How to deal with entitlement: Firstly, identify the behaviour well before they join your team. Look to uncover patterns, beliefs, etc., at interview and look at previous roles and longevity on resumes. Communicating and reinforcing the following at interview/ induction/ onboarding–at every opportunity:
  • Company values and culture
  • Expectations
  • How rewards and career progression work

Misunderstandings and/or miscommunications in these areas can lead to false expectations on the side of the employee and can manifest in the behaviour you see as entitled. Sometimes the above isn’t enough and the behaviour is there regardless. Provide feedback with specific examples for clarity. Simply telling someone, they are behaving in an entitled way may reinforce the behaviour, causing more ‘righteousness’. You are likely to see more entitlement, not less!

If this is the first time, they are receiving such feedback, tread gently. Ask for their input (you are seeking to understand, not judge) and provide acknowledgement for their work and contribution regularly. Building trust with your employee is imperative in breaking down the barriers and insecurities causing the entitled behaviour.

If you are receiving feedback that your behaviour is seen as entitled, developing and working on your self-awareness will be imperative in seeing, hearing and feeling the feedback.  Your self-awareness will assist with self-regulating and adjusting your behaviours as you witness firsthand the impact you are having on others. Working on your self-confidence will also assist in breaking the pattern that may blind you to your behaviours.

If you are acting in an entitled manner or any other behaviour that is not conducive to your future and career, it’s far better you uncover this trait and look to fix it. As a final point- before labelling someone’s behaviour as ‘entitlement’, it may be worth considering your own behaviours and reactions. You may be projecting your own subconscious triggers or/of past experiences onto others, and it may only be you perceiving the behaviour as entitled?

Roxanne Calder is the author of ‘Employable – 7 Attributes to Assuring Your Working Future

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