Complex issues surround workforce shortages. There are declining demographics, the loss of immigrant workers, a pandemic forcing women to withdraw, and adversity resulting in workers questioning their work conditions and wages. An unpleasant side effect has been the rise of employee entitlement attitudes.
To be clear, many employees like their work, identify with their employer’s mission, and they are the core reason for the company’s success. They prove employers and employees can work towards common goals. They see purpose in the work they do.
Employee Entitlement Examples
The cries and calls we are getting from employers point to marginal employees, who are using labor shortages as a way to get unreasonable demands and to break company rules.
- At a meeting about being frequently 15-20 minutes late, an employee puts her finger in the boss’s face and says, “What? I never ask you where you are?”
- An employee jump roping during the day instead of working (not during a meal break).
- A worker informs his manager, “By the way, my full-time is 25 hours per week.”
- An employee flatly tells her manager she is working remotely from now on.
- An employee responds to new business processes with “I don’t like this; I might as well quit.”
- A reprimanded employee says, “You know you can’t afford to have me fired.”
- An executive assistant decides to take the week off when the expectation was to cover her boss during that time.
I know there may be more texture around these situations. The problem was not the employee’s ask so much as how it was delivered. Each one was delivered with an attitude of entitlement and hostility. There was no room for dialogue. The employee was demanding, not asking. The employee felt entitled.
Entitled behaviors are generally the beginning of a downward pattern. We see good employers, who treat their employees fairly, still have employees that act out as if they have been mistreated and are deserving more. It’s frustrating when employers have given a lot during a challenging year, yet their efforts are grossly unappreciated. These employers offered flexibility, support services, and supplemental wages, yet the recipients are still holding out their hands and asking for more.
What is surprising about this is how many employers are accepting unreasonable behaviors and putting up with entitled attitudes. What would otherwise be a terminable offense is suddenly being overlooked. The reason we often hear? “I can’t do without the employee. There are no workers available.” Unfortunately, the wrong response will actually encourage entitled attitudes. It reminds me of the child with asthma who learns they can always get what they want by threatening an asthma attack. What do you think the counselor would tell the parents? Fear stops us from confronting bad behavior.
Handling Employee Entitlement Attitudes
Here’s how to push through the anxiety and manage those displaying entitlement attitudes and behaviors:
- Confront it. The manager doesn’t have to be combative or get angry. But do not ignore or turn a blind eye to the behaviors either.
- Try to analyze the situation. Maybe there is merit to the ask and the employee needs redirected on how to deliver it.
- Manage expectations. I read a great book by Eric Chester called “Reviving Work Ethic.” The book suggests teaching employees about how the employer has entitlements too. According to Chester, employers are entitled to:
- a positive, enthusiastic workforce
- workers who show up on time
- employees who try to look their best
- employees who are prepared to add value to the role
- workers who obey the rules
- workers who do not fudge, lie, cheat or steal from them
In return, the employer is responsible for treating workers fairly and making sure wages are competitive. They should treat people with respect and express their appreciation. They communicate clear paths to promotions and success. They act and behave in a manner that makes employees proud. They will continue to invest in the business and make available resources so staff can do their jobs well.
Employers should resist the inclination to succumb to the fear of workforce shortages. Take the initiative to eradicate entitlement in your workplace. Keep to your principles even during difficult times. If not, an entitled workforce may become our next pandemic.
–Rose Miller, Sr. Director of Strategic Relationships
Need help managing your employees? Need more HR guidance? GTM’s team of HR consultants can advise and guide you on handling employee entitlement issues. They can also assist with workforce shortages by providing talent acquisition support to help you fill your open positions. Fill out the form below to learn more.