Loosely translated, an entitlement mindset is one that declares, “I deserve special treatment, better pay, more perks, and more attention than others, because I’m special. I shouldn’t have to observe the rules that everyone else in my group has to, because I’m special. And as a result of my being special, I am allowed to subordinate company interests in favor of my own.” An outlook of entitlement means the person in question—whatever their title—is not willing to support a “we-first” culture. A common justification for ignoring or overruling a “we-first” culture is, “That’s not how I do it – so I will stick with my way of doing things, since that’s what works.”
This is basically a failure of accountability. When executives allow an unaccountable culture to take root or, even worse, endorse it with their personal example, a toxic dynamic spreads, placing the individual first, and the company last.
The “conventional wisdom” justifications that leaders make for the entitlement mindset may sound like this:
- “Young and aggressive is good.”
- “As long as only a few people are doing this, it’s OK.”
- “We hire fast.” (Not necessarily smart!)
- “If something goes wrong, it’s HR’s fault.”
- “Some people get to ignore agreements if they’re major contributors.”
The entitlement mindset usually reveals that there are no clear lines for following rules, or consequences for not doing so … and therefore the rules have no impact.
It becomes difficult if not impossible to get good analytics on the business when an entitlement mindset is present. This is because people with entitlement issues typically are reluctant to share information; they play everything close to the vest.
The entitlement mindset is likely the result of having no hiring profile for the role and no effective hiring process. The sales leader must own this and must be held accountable. The sad reality is that an entitlement mindset may exist, and persist, because leadership is both modeling it and permitting it. If that pattern continues, growth becomes too expensive—both from a financial and a cultural point of view—and eventually becomes unsustainable.
If the entitlement problem is left unchecked, the concept of “we-first” is destroyed, leading to a culture of “me-first” and a downward performance spiral. When everyone is looking out for number one, no one is looking out for the company!
What to Do
- Create a defined success profile for the role that emphasizes a “we-first” approach … and build the recruiting, hiring, and onboarding process around it.
- Eliminate patterns of entitled behavior at the top level of the organization.
- Create clear standards and expectations during team meetings (without singling out individuals). Point out certain entitled behaviors, then connect the dots as to why this doesn’t support the team’s mission and objectives, what it means to the company and to mutual success, and what the consequences are if the behaviors aren’t changed.
- Don’t assume everyone knows what a “we-first” working culture looks like. Meet privately with the direct reports who have entitlement issues, and share your specific expectations.
- Reward accountability as a way of doing business, as well as a way of life.
- Gracefully part company with those who insist on being “me-first.”
For more on the entitlement mindset, see our book THE SUCCESS CADENCE: UNLEASH YOUR ORGANIZATION’S RAPID GROWTH CULTURE.