Entitlement, a millennial problem?

September 19, 2018

Entitlement is defined as the belief that we inherently deserve privileges or special treatment. It is also a word commonly associated with that young, unruly group: the millennials. Millennials expect to be hired at a VP level. They demand speedy promotions and rapid raises. They want to be CEOs by the time they hit their first high-school reunion. How dare they!

The truth is, every generation and every person come to the table with a certain level of entitlement. Older generations feel entitled to raises for good performance and promotions for time in service, without considering if it is a sound financial strategy for their organization.

The problem is not entitled generations; it is misaligned mindsets as to what actually sets a business up for success. Without addressing the clash of entitlement—against the reality of how business has evolved—you will hire for a diverse work environment but end up building a strained ‘we versus them’ dynamic instead.

If you want to ensure that your entire workforce is focused on the priorities and realities of today’s business climate, and not on a misguided sense of entitlement, turn to these five guiding principles:

01 value collaboration over experience

It used to be that the only people who were invited (or expected) to speak up were those of senior tenure who possessed the highest titles in the room, with the goal of eliminating risk.

Today, the goal is not about eliminating risk as much as it is about identifying ‘worthwhile’ risk. How do you create, as quickly as possible, cutting-edge concepts and ideas that consumers will get excited about? How do you do it without losing ground? Though there is still value to experience and mastery, it is not the only value in the room. Fresh perspectives, alternative approaches, and creative solutions are what keep an organization agile and connected to today’s diverse and global consumer base.

02 create a thriving culture versus ‘survival of the fittest’

Most organizations emphasize limited resources and flattening hierarchies to keep employees from pushing too hard for raises or promotions. But what this actually does is elevate the angst people feel about their own survival. It creates an environment of ‘not enough’, and it pits people against one another.

Instead, create a culture based on the belief that life is great and full of opportunity. This is more than ‘positive speak’. When individuals focus on opportunities instead of their survival, they identify what they truly want and are more open to sharing and helping others.

03 teach employees to be business owners

Employees of all ages and backgrounds behave and think more like students than savvy business people. In school, you are guaranteed to move forward if you earn good grades. Teachers guide students on a clear path toward success. But once students get into the workplace, they do not realize how much school has influenced how they view what businesses need.

When you teach employees to think and act like business owners, they suddenly realize their managers are not teachers or bosses—they are clients. Employees who act like business owners do not beg for promotions; they sell their genius. They do not feel entitled. They get that success in business is founded on generating supply and demand while forging quality relationships. Thinking like a business owner forces employees to look at the bigger picture—and what a company needs—instead of stomping their feet when they do not receive promotions or raises they believe
they deserve.

04 provide a career management process

There really is no such thing as a direct career path anymore. But it seems like people are still expecting there to be one. Millennials who have just completed school are often completely thrown off by the fact that no one is there to tell them what the next step is. Similarly, Gen Xers and baby boomers hound their managers, asking what they have to do to move up to the next level—whatever that means. Across the board, everyone is disheartened by the lack of clarity.

To fix this, first make it clear that there is no longer a career ‘path’ to aspire to. Building a career today involves identifying goals, building alignment, and making an impact. Next, create a standard process for career discussions between employees and their managers. Finally, train everyone on best practices for brainstorming, assessing, discussing, and planning for career moves.

05 stop millennial bashing

In a climate where diversity and inclusion are heightened priorities, it is amazing how accepted it is to negatively stereotype an entire group of people because of their age. How is that helpful to anyone? Yes, millennials may speak a different language of text messages and emojis, but how is that different than people who speak using acronyms from their previous jobs? We have to move past the labels and focus on valuing others for their differences. That is what inclusion is about.