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Millennials And Entitlement In The Workplace

06/02/2018

Millennials And Entitlement In The Workplace: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

 

Of all the prevailing stereotypes about millennials, one of the biggest and most cited is their generation’s sense of entitlement. Though different groups likely have different definitions, entitlement (or an entitlement complex) basically means you believe you’re owed something intrinsically. In millennials’ case, some people from older generations believe millennials typically ask for a salary far higher than what they’re worth, or expect a job immediately after graduating from college, just because they graduated.

The idea is that millennials were raised by baby boomer and Gen X parents who spoiled them. They were awarded participation trophies just for showing up to competitive events, and had access to the internet—with virtually unlimited connective potential—in their childhood and early adult years. Accordingly, they grew up to believe that the world already owed them something, and complain when they don’t immediately get it.

But are millennials as entitled as they’re described to be? And if so, what effects is this having on the workplace?

 

Mixed Results

There is some evidence to suggest that millennials have an entitlement complex (even though such a psychological phenomenon is hard to describe officially, let alone quantify). According to a study from the University of Hampshire, millennials born between 1988 and 1994 scored 25 percent higher in entitlement-related issues than their 40-60 year old counterparts, and 50 percent higher than those over 60. The score was calculated using a survey comprised of several questions meant to reveal attitudes of entitlement, such as asking whether participants felt they deserved certain things, or asking how superior they felt to others.

Another study found that people in their 20s are more than 3 times as likely to have narcissistic personality disorder (which is commonly associated with entitlement) than people 65 or older. Of course, there’s an inherent bias to these cross-generational studies; they’re looking at the young people of one generation and comparing them to the older people of another generation. Accordingly, these may be age-related differences, rather than generational differences.

There’s also some conflicting evidence. For example, one study found that millennials consistently believed that the right age for financial independence was 1 to 2 years lower than the age stated by baby boomers, indicating that the generation may be more independent and willing to work than opponents typically claim.

But let’s say that millennials do have a sense of entitlement. How is that shaping the workplace?

 

The Good

Believe it or not, there are actually some benefits to feeling entitled. Entitled people feel a stronger drive for achievement; after all, if you feel like you deserve to be the top salesperson in your organization, you’re going to work harder to make that title a reality. You might also hold out for a job that better suits your talents and expertise, rather than taking one with responsibilities that are beneath you, and you’ll work harder and more productively as a result.

There’s also evidence to show that entitled people may actually be more creative. The idea is that entitled people believe themselves to be special, and value independence. Accordingly, they’re more willing to part with conventions, and can propose more interesting ideas.

 

The Bad

There are some obvious negative consequences to more entitled people entering the workforce. Entitled people are more likely to:

  • Demand higher pay. They believe they’re worth more than their counterparts for no objective reason, and may demand a higher salary accordingly.
  • Break rules. They aren’t afraid to deviate from the norms because they believe they’re special.
  • Want special privileges. They’ll ask for special privileges that others don’t get because they believe themselves to be superior.
  • Act selfishly. They’ll put themselves above their company and coworkers.
  • None of these behaviors contributes positively to a work environment, and in large enough doses can wear down the effectiveness and morale of an organization.

The Ugly

There’s also a dark side to the individual effects of entitlement. Researchers from Case Western Reserve University found that entitlement typically leads to chronic disappointment; you feel like you deserve certain things, whether tangible or intangible, yet you never get them, so you always leave a situation with unmet expectations.

People then feel frustrated, unhappy, and overall disappointed with life, and cope with this by blaming others—rather than themselves—to continue feeling that it’s the environment that’s responsible for their disappointment. Over time, this can lead to clinical depression and isolation.

Regardless of whether you personally feel a sense of entitlement, it’s important to note how a sense of entitlement could shape your workplace. After all, regardless of generations, you’ll inevitably run into other individuals in your business who have an entitlement complex. Knowing its dangers—and in some cases, its advantages—is key if you want your workplace to keep running smoothly.

 

by Larry Alton via forbes.com

 

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