job entitlement

Photo by Ryan  Weisgerber licensed under CC BY 2.0

What stands in the way of you getting that next job promotion you want so badly? Is it:

  • Your experience?
  • Your education?
  • Your timing?

All these factors certainly play a role, but the biggest obstacle is carrying around a sense of entitlement! Entitlement is defined as ‘the feeling or belief that you deserve to be given something’.

Recently, working with a client whose organization had gone through tremendous change and restructuring, I noticed there was a fair amount of job changes and the need to reposition certain employees. Many embraced the change and the opportunity to advocate for themselves, demonstrate their competence and willingness to do what it would take to move the company and their career forward. On the other hand, I was surprised by how many employees were:

  • Frustrated and even angry about the changes
  • Stuck in a mindset of “I’ve worked here for 10 years and now they want me to do something differently?!”
  • Unwilling to raise the bar on their own performance so that they would shine and be positioned well for the future of their growing company.

The sentiments among employees went from “Thank goodness our company was rescued and is being revived and I have my job” to “Where’s my raise and don’t they know they are lucky to have me?”

Executive coach Linda Haines explains, “The mindset is, ‘I don’t have to give much but I expect my employer/boss/co-workers will give me something — respect, pay, promotions, etc., — just because.’” Ms. Haines says entitlement manifests itself in the following workplace traits: a resistance to feedback, an inclination to overestimate talents and accomplishments, a tendency to be demanding and overbearing and to blame others for mistakes, and little sense of team loyalty. Sound familiar?

These behaviors showed up clearly in one employee I had the opportunity to observe. Joe had been working in the marketing department for just over a year. He came to his position from another department with little experience in marketing but a willingness to try something new. Joe is a competent team member but still clearly on the front edge of his learning curve. He found out his manager was leaving the department to work in another area of the company – so the department manager position was now open! Joe jumped on the opportunity. But his undoing was how he did it. Here were Joe’s big mistakes:

  1. Campaigning – He started campaigning with everyone but the hiring manager. Joe approached anyone he had worked with (on big and small projects) in the past year to ask them for their vote of confidence with the hiring manager. Of course everyone felt awkward – they knew Joe but not that well – and while they liked him and had generally been pleased with his work they didn’t feel they knew enough about his background or experience to truly advocate for him. It is ok to let people know of your interest in promotion, but couple that with an honest inquiry into what they feel you could work on or get better at.
  1. Feeling entitled – Joe basically felt the new job should be his. He was number 2 in the department so he should get it. He didn’t feel compelled to do anything differently to get the nod.
  1. Refusing to take things on until you know – This was perhaps Joe’s biggest mistake. He actually did a “work slow down” of his own. Telling his manager that he couldn’t complete projects (using the rationale that the current manager had left so they were short staffed…) until his future and additional resources were secured. Wait. What??!
  1. Not building his relationship with the hiring manager – Joe didn’t have a strong relationship with the hiring manager and made no attempt to build it. He went around her in hopes that others’ opinions would matter.

Entitlement can happen at any age, whether you are a millennial or a long-term employee. Entitlement does not discriminate over age. What can you do to make sure you are never accused of feeling entitled when you have the opportunity to get promoted?

  • Shine brightly – polish your skills, work harder, take on new projects and demonstrate through your actions that you are a committed team player.
  • Do a thorough self-assessment – Get a hold of the new job description and assess yourself honestly on your ability to step into the new role. Do you have what it takes or do you still have room to grow?
  • Make your case – Be prepared for the interview with the hiring manager and make sure you can share a good business case for why you are the right person at the right time for this job. If the position requires a higher level of strategic thinking, come prepared with your strategy. If the position will require greater customer contact, be prepared to discuss your passion about the customer experience.
  • Accept a ‘no’ with grace – If you don’t get the promotion, don’t whine, don’t complain and don’t bad-mouth the hiring manager and company to others. No one wants to keep that kind of toxic person in the workplace.
  • Get it the next time – allow the ‘no’ to drive your ambition and work harder so that the next time you’ll get the ‘yes’.