Employee Entitlement Attitudes and Generation Y in the Workplace

by Jude Carter

Are you finding an increase in workers with an entitlement mentality in your workplace? This trait seems to be more prevalent with Gen Y workers as they graduate from college and join the workforce. (Perhaps all those Little League trophies given to the whole team have now come back to haunt us.)

A recent study from the University of New Hampshire* shows that employees with a sense of entitlement have overblown views of their abilities and the recognition they should receive. Some of the telltale signs include:
· Expectation of preferential treatment, regardless of performance
· Resistance to negative feedback
· Low job satisfaction levels
· Conflicts with supervisors and coworkers
· Taking credit for work they didn’t do

So, what’s a manager to do? In a situation like this, communication is one of the most powerful tools that can help to clarify expectations and convey performance progress.
· Frequent feedback that is specific and performance-based will help to set the stage and ward off inaccurate perceptions or expectations
· Clarification on organizational structure and who is responsible for what should help reinforce individual and departmental responsibilities.

Ironically, the study points out that in extreme cases of entitlement, increased communication can backfire, causing the employee to feel more frustrated – especially if the supervisor’s assessments aren’t in line with those of the worker.

Paul Harvey, assistant professor of management at UNH suggests that employers screen potential hires for “signs of entitlement” by asking questions such as, “Do you feel you are generally superior to your coworkers, and if so, why?” If the answer to the first part is yes with no explanation as to why, that could be a red flag. At a time when we really need strong teamwork, there’s not room for entitlement attitudes.

*Source: Human Relations, June 28, 2010

Jude Carter
September 15, 2010

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