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Entitlement Cultures

A culture of entitlement suggests that employees believe they deserve certain levels of privileges that may be unreasonable. This can occur when precedents have been set, or incorrect assumptions have been made about expectations. People feel like it is owed to them rather than based on their actions.

This culture is more common than you think.

Examples of entitlement cultures include people who expect their bonus(es) and view them as part of their base remuneration. From their perspective, it is not based on their performance, so it becomes an expectation. Another example is promotions based on tenure rather than performance and outcomes. Or, every year people receive a pay rise, and this becomes a precedent of what people expect. If one year this doesn’t happen, people feel like it has been taken from them. In other organisations, it may look like additional leave days and flexibility, a benefit rather than an entitlement.

The consequence is that it impacts employee engagement, which in turn affects business performance. There can also be a divide between team members. Where there are rewards without effort, mediocrity becomes the norm.

Entitlement Cultures

What can you do to address a culture of entitlement?

  • Focus on Accountability & Ownership - Encourage each team member to take ownership of their work and responsibilities. Promote an environment where accountability is celebrated, and everyone understands their role in contributing to your collective achievements. 

  • Reward Effort and Merit - Implement a merit-based recognition system that acknowledges individual and team contributions based on performance, effort, and achievements. This approach reinforces the value of hard work and commitment, discouraging entitlement attitudes. 

  • Communicate Expectations Transparently - Clear communication about expectations, responsibilities, and the criteria for advancement and rewards can mitigate misunderstandings and entitlement sentiments. Transparency in decision-making processes also helps build trust and a sense of fairness among team members. 

  • Lead by Example—Leaders play a crucial role in setting the tone for the organisation’s culture. Leaders can inspire similar behaviours throughout the organisation by demonstrating humility, respect, and a willingness to contribute and collaborate. 

Overcoming entitlement culture is a journey that requires commitment, patience, and collective effort. By influencing a workplace environment that values accountability, merit, and growth, you can build a stronger, more cohesive, and resilient organisation.

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