Entitlement – It Rears Its Ugly Head From Time to Time

Today’s post is from guest blogger Heather Kinzie.Heather Kinzie

Heather has been a Human Resources professional for nearly 20 years.  She likes to make things better so she develops/presents training courses and facilitates team/process/strategy improvement events.  Her clients benefit from her expertise and her insight but moreover, they appreciate her pragmatic and often brutally honest thoughts, concerns and suggestions.  Heather comes with tons of energy and laughter, but she also comes with quirks, truth and the occasional storm of swear words. 🙂


“I want the world. I want the whole world. I want to lock it all up in my pocket. It’s my bar of chocolate. Give it to me now!”

-Veruca Salt, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

Entitlement - I Want ItThe term “entitlement” refers to the belief that we deserve some particular reward or benefit.  Not because we met or exceeded a goal or expended exceptional effort but because we believe someone “owes” us something simply because we exist.

I Googled the word “entitlement” to see what others were saying about it.

I found a lot of blame.

  • Let’s blame the spoiled employees
  • Let’s blame the enabling parents
  • Let’s blame the terrible employers
  • Let’s blame the failing economy
  • Let’s blame the unreasonable unions

The blame game…it gets more action than Candy Crush!

I suppose I could play too but it makes me feel like a victim. 

I find it more empowering to look in the mirror. 

What have I done to create my staff’s feeling of entitlement?

  • Have I given a good performance evaluation when, in reality, the performance was mediocre?
  • Have I redone my staffs’ work rather than pro-actively telling them it was wrong?
  • Have I “job sculpted” for someone, removing duties rather than communicating that the whole job must be done?
  • Have I offered a bribe to motivate an employee to simply “meet” the performance standards?
  • Have I failed to communicate or define the “why” when benefits or rewards are/are not offered?

If I have answered yes to any of these, goody for me…this is what I’ve done:

  • I have applauded low expectations and created entitlements.
  • I have encouraged mediocrity and now have nothing to motivate the discretionary performance.
  • My employees think I give willy nilly (true HR technical term) gifts and am an arbitrary and capricious manager.
  • I’ve created either distrust of my “position power” or an entitlement.


What about you? Have you done similar things?  If so, stop the madness! 

You are a Leader – define reality for your staff – and the reality is this: often, it’s unreasonable to expect or demand benefits and rewards.

Are there certain inalienable rights in the workplace?  Absolutely! But has everyone earned a raise or an extra Friday afternoon off?  No!

Perhaps some of the points below can help you prevent an entitlement mentality in your workplace.

  • Empathize, don’t sympathize.  Empathy shows you are listening, trying to understand and that you care he/she is upset.  Sympathy, however, validates the issue or tells him/her you agree or share the belief.
  • Ask questions.  Being inquisitive (without being snarky or condescending) can help the employee realize the reality, reasonableness and necessity of the situation.
  • Avoid continued bribing and/or offers of benefits.  Compromise is good but blindly offering one benefit for the loss of another doesn’t solve anything, and giving a reward “in the hopes” that performance will follow will likely backfire.
  • Try to avoid rhetoric or persuasion when benefits/rewards change.  There may be 100 great reasons why the benefit has gone away but the fact is, the employee wants it back!  Trying to persuade agreement is a waste of time.
  • Communicate the truthful “why.”  Many employees need to hear the “why” and need to trust the decision was made for the betterment of the business.
  • Be consistent and (dare I say) fair.  Logic, objectivity and reliability will nurture understanding in the workplace; understanding leads to acceptance.


I’ll leave you with one last thought.  In an atmosphere of entitlement, rewards are not tied to effort and thus, employees feel powerless to effect change and to grow. 

Therefore, give a gift to your employees this week: build a workplace where employees earn rewards the old fashioned way…they earn them.



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