How to Eliminate Entitlement in a Millennial Workforce

Here is how reinforcing responsibility with two words can eliminate entitlement in a Millennial workforce.

How to Eliminate Entitlement in a Millennial Workforce.jpg

Entitlement is the feeling or belief that you deserve to be given something (such as special privileges). Entitlement can show up in students, customers, parents, employers, managers, and employees. (Read this to learn how Millennials became "entitled.")

Dr. John Townsend, psychologist, leadership expert, and best-selling author of The Entitlement Cure: Finding Success in Doing Hard Things the Right Way, defines entitlement in two ways...

  • An attitude that I am not responsible for my impact on you. (Examples: I can be late to meetings, a clock watcher, or not be a team player.)
  • An attitude that I deserve special treatment. (Examples: I don't need to work my way up, I don't need to start at the bottom, and I don't need to play by the rules.)

Entitlement can be a heavy anchor for any generation's journey toward success. It can make the most seasoned professional blind to his or her weaknesses, complacent, or resentful.

Dr. Townsend recommends eliminating employee entitlement by getting employees to shift their attitudes from "I deserve" to "I'm responsible." An attitude or culture of "I deserve" is severely disempowering because it relies on external forces that are out of an individual's control. "I'm responsible" is extremely empowering because it gives control or ownership--something Millennials are familiar with and longing for--to the individual.

Here are a few examples of attitude shifts:

  • "I deserve a great job. I'll wait for someone to hand me a job."
    Change to: "I'm responsible for securing a great job. I'll do what it takes to find and secure a great job. I'm responsible for networking, acquiring in-demand skills, or interviewing well. I'm responsible for helping my employer become a better workplace."
  • "I deserve a promotion. I'm going to wait until someone gives me the promotion I deserve."
    Change to: "I'm responsible for my work ethic and the quality of my work. I'm responsible for executing my job responsibilities with excellence every day. I'm responsible for informing management of my career aspirations. I'm responsible for building the skills necessary for promotion."
  • "I deserve to work whenever and wherever I want. I'm going to find an employer that will give that to me."
    Change to: "I'm responsible for meeting the needs of my customer or employer. I'm responsible for helping my manager understand how I can bring more value with a flexible schedule. I'm responsible to maintain high performance no matter when or where I work."

In each of the above "I deserve" scenarios, the individual is robbed of choice and control because of an entitled attitude. In every "I'm responsible" scenario, the individual is empowered with choices and control.

Doing our best doesn't entitle us to anything. Instead, it elevates our chances of being rewarded for our work and acquiring what we desire.

It's important to note that there are healthy forms of deserving. For example, we deserve fair compensation for the work that is required of us. It's when deserving and our desires for more, better, faster overtake us that we slip into an "I deserve" attitude and mindset that is dangerous. The selfish "I deserve" attitude will only weaken resolve.

Eliminate entitlement in Millennials by helping them to embrace an "I'm responsible" attitude.

(This is 1 of the 47 strategies Ryan shares in his new book, The Millennial Manual: The Complete How-To Guide to Manage, Develop, and Engage Millennials at Work.)

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This article was originally posted on Ryan's column, Next Generation Insights.


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