When Communication Can Backfire
If you think there’s been an increase in employees with an entitlement mentality at your company, you may be right. It’s a trait that seems to be more prevalent as increasing numbers of Millennials (also called Generation Y) enter the workforce.
Up and Coming
Just ahead of Gen Y is Gen X, the group that will succeed Baby Boomers as managers over the next several years.
So how does that generation compare to current management? Research shows that Baby Boomers outrank them in business knowledge, are more likely to apply functional and technical expertise on the job, and are better at coaching, assisting personnel development and managing project execution.
But the Xers have the upper hand when it comes to analysis, strong work commitment and the inclination to strive to self-improvement. Some predict that Generation X managers will complete a shift to a more collaborate style of management that tries to generate a collective buy-in to achieve goals.
Baby Boomers are still mostly in charge, but in many ways, they feel disillusioned by the changes they see in younger workers. They see younger workers treating jobs as though they were both an entitlement and disposable.
Those same younger workers see older managers and supervisors as rigid and wonder why, in this increasingly mobile world, they remain in jobs that are no longer satisfying.
And this can create friction on the job. Research shows that employees with a sense of entitlement have overblown views of their abilities and the recognition they should receive. These “entitlement-minded” individuals can create numerous problems for co-workers and supervisors. They are also likely to abuse their colleagues and suffer from job frustration.
These psychologically entitled employees tend toward:
Exacerbating the problem: Trying to communicate more with these employees is the wrong approach. In fact, it can backfire. Trying to improve the entitlement-minded employees’ behaviour by increased communication and feedback may aggravate their frustration and abusiveness.
On the face of it you would think the most effective approach would be to boost the frequency of evaluations and amount of job-related information. But this can have the opposite effect and increase the job-related frustrations reported by these employees.
Why? Because evidence suggests that psychological entitlement is a perception that can distort the messages conveyed in supervisor communication. Thus, these employees can perceive evaluation as criticism, reject any information that doesn’t match their entitled worldview and perceive high levels of supervisor attention as a reaffirmation of their value.
How do you spot psychologically entitled individuals among your employees and potential hires? Look for people who:
And how do you deal with them? Here are six practical suggestions and insights:
1. Remove as much ambiguity as possible. Document who performs specific tasks so credit and blame are accurately placed;
2. Ensure clarity about who is responsible for what;
3. Guard against behaviours that smack of “office politics” by entitlement-minded employees;
4. Keep an eye out for abusive behaviour and take steps to prevent it;
5. Consider if it would be cost-effective and successful to send entitled employees for professional counseling and coaching; and
6. Fire the errant employees if you determine that there is no solution to the problem that is not too costly in terms of time and money.