Do you have a sense of entitlement at work? It could be holding back your career

Monique Ellis our consultant managing the role
Posting date: 18/10/2017

Some of us may be guilty of entitlement without realising as it’s become difficult to know the difference between what we expect and what we have earned. Employee entitlement is when you feel you are deserving of things that you haven’t necessarily earned, such as a pay rise, promotion or reward. The good news is that entitled employees aren’t necessarily bad ones, and a few small changes in perspective can help you to better navigate the modern workplace.

Several studies show that entitlement can be a product of modern social and parenting practice, in which many individuals are told from a young age that they are special and deserve reward regardless of whether they win or achieve something. Employee entitlement is something that has been linked with certain generations, particularly millennials, although the issue is not exclusively theirs.

By the time these individuals reach the workplace, the sense of entitlement may be deep-rooted and often subconscious. It can distort their understanding of what is expected of them and what it takes to be successful.

It’s worth noting that there are varying degrees of entitlement and it doesn’t automatically make a person overtly difficult to work with or manage, but it can negatively impact their mental attitude towards their role and company. This can lead to them feeling unhappy, disengaged and unmotivated at work.

What are the signs of an entitled employee? 

Those with a sense of entitlement at work are likely to:

  • Display an inflated sense of their own importance
  • Expect reward regardless of performance
  • Believe that they deserve special treatment or exemption from company policy
  • Feel superior to their colleagues
  • Prefer to work independently
  • Resent authority and micro-management
  • Care too much about others’ opinions
  • Feel like they must constantly prove themselves

Workplace entitlement can be remedied with a few small changes to your outlook. In some cases, aspects of entitlement can even be used to your advantage. Here are a few tips on how to manage your feelings of entitlement at work:

Applying for jobs

During the recruitment process, entitled employees may harm their chances by giving off the wrong impression or by becoming quickly disengaged and apathetic. For example, in an interview, coming across as self-important and overly confident can be very off-putting to the interviewer, regardless of how impressive your CV and experience are. It could trigger alarm bells that you may be difficult to manage and will not be a good cultural fit for the company.

If you have a sense of entitlement, you could also have unrealistic perception of your abilities, believing that you’re over-qualified for a role or suitable for something that is beyond your current capabilities. While confidence can be an very positive trait, this may stop you from trying as hard, assuming that you’ve already ‘got it in the bag’. Instead, fully immerse yourself in the recruitment process and consider every interview/offer as an opportunity that could potentially lead to something great. Also, always remember the importance of a first impression and the fact that interviewers want to connect with you on a human level, no matter your credentials.

Soft skills

The trouble with being an entitled employee is that you may focus too much on performance and forget that a big part of success comes from soft-skills, such as the ability to communicate well and build relationships with colleagues, clients and customers. A sense of superiority puts you in danger of overlooking the importance of these key skills, instead focusing on measurable achievements and performance metrics to prove that you’re the best. As great as it is to hit targets, being unable to demonstrate competency in other areas may hinder your career going forwards. It’s best to foster a well-rounded skill set that plays to your strengths whilst ensuring that these crucial skills are included.

Realistic expectations

Entitlement also breeds inflated expectations of salary, benefits and rewards. A key characteristic of an entitled employee is that you may expect praise and reward regardless of effort or the quality of your work. Have you ever felt that you deserve a promotion just because you’ve been at the company for another year, often forgetting to think about whether you have truly earned it?

This is a running theme with pay rises and reward schemes, too. Some employees have expectations of automatic reward and compensation psychologically engrained, making it tough for employers and co-workers to deal with. Rerouting these subconscious thought processes may be difficult, but you can begin by checking yourself with a few simple questions each time you feel entitled to a promotion, pay rise or reward:

  1. Did I go above and beyond the basic job description of my role?
  2. Can I demonstrate that I have met my manager’s expectations?
  3. Can I prove that my contribution is valuable to my team and the wider company?
  4. Do I understand the bigger picture and work towards the company’s goals?

Don’t take it for granted

As much as is it your employer’s responsibility to create a great working environment and attractive benefits package, you should not take every perk and reward for granted. Entitled employees tend to view privileges as rights. Those who are routinely rewarded without much cause are likely to expect continued praise and become disgruntled without it.

Instead, you should feel confident that you have earned it, but also appreciate why you are not rewarded when you don’t meet expectations. One way to get around this is to ask your manager to set clear, measurable goals to reduce misinterpretation later down the line. You’ll then be less likely to expect reward if your work isn’t up to scratch.

Prove yourself

Another troubling characteristic of an entitled employee is the sense of superiority. In more serious cases, this type of attitude can lead to difficult relationships with managers and co-workers. You may be left feeling frustrated, in want of more responsibility and recognition. This aspect of employee entitlement is not always a negative thing if you are careful to moderate your behaviour and show respect for your team and management.

Believing that you do a better job than another colleague is not a crime, nor is it necessarily damaging to the team. In fact, it can be an asset if you are prepared to continuously prove that you’re the best – but it won’t work if your attitude isn’t right!

Constructive criticism

Once again, in extreme cases, hypersensitivity to the opinions of others can negatively impact your relationships within the workplace. However, if you learn to look at positive and negative feedback as constructive, this trait can be used to your advantage. Caring what people think is a great motivator to continuously improve and will make you accountable for your actions.

Beating entitlement at work is no easy feat but can be conquered by adapting your behaviour. While not everything is in your control as an employee, it’s a way to get to the root of your problems at work and change them for the better.

For more helpful information on applying for jobs, writing CVs and interview skills, check out the careers advice section on Proclinical’s blog.

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