Working with an entitled team member is challenging, as is managing an entitled team member. Employees with high psychological entitlement morally rationalize their behavior to explain workplace outcomes in a self-serving manner and still see themselves positively.
Research shows they have lower levels of engagement, are more likely to engage in unethical behavior, have more conflict with their supervisor, and consider malicious and self-serving actions acceptable if it helps them progress.
As a leader, failing to manage an entitled employee effectively can impact the rest of the team. Be ready to spot the warning signs and act on them. Here are seven essential steps to take.
KNOW THE WARNING SIGNS
Entitlement at work can take many forms. For example, your team member can expect the following:
- More pay than their peers, even though they do less work and add less value
- To always be promoted or offered the best opportunities
- To receive a bonus every year, even if the company’s performance has deteriorated
- To pick and choose the tasks they want to do
- For the company to manage their career for them
- To take breaks, holidays, or time off whenever it suits
It’s all “me, me, me,” and they rarely (if ever) consider the impact their behavior or wants have on those around them. They see themselves as number one.
With entitlement, there is a gap in expectations. The best way to address this is to talk with the team member. The purpose of the conversation is to get clear on:
- Their expectations
- Your expectations
- The gap between the two
For example, if they expect a pay raise, discuss what they must demonstrate to secure a pay raise. If the team member always wants the Friday off before a public holiday, work through the options and what is fair for other team members.
GET READY FOR THE CONVERSATION
You don’t just walk into a conversation of this nature unprepared. You will want to get ready for it. For example, think about the best time of day and be equipped with specific situations to talk through with your team member. This conversation isn’t one-sided. Seek to understand your team member’s motivation and career drivers and approach the discussion with an open mind. There may be some legitimacy to their claims or expectations. Be ready to hear their perspective.
When you have that information, you can work through the options and be specific about what’s realistic, given their role and contribution. Ideally, you will both walk away from the conversation understanding each other’s perspective and have aligned expectations and a clear way forward. Despite securing agreement on the way forward, recognise that the commitment to change (and seeing evidence of the change) may take several conversations.
You will want to monitor outcomes and their progress. Notice where you see improvement and where you aren’t. For change to happen, they must want to change, and you need to hold them to their commitments. If they refuse to change, you need to consider their behaviour’s impact on the rest of the team and if that impact is reasonable and something you wish to accept. If it’s not, consider going down a formal performance improvement path.
BE CONSISTENT AND FAIR
In your approach and the outcomes, you must consistently apply expectations with the specific team member and across the team. You don’t want to be unfair or play favorites. We are acutely aware of when leaders treat people differently. We see when people are rewarded and promoted in an unfair way. Of course, what is fair or unfair is based on a person’s interpretation of what’s happening, so perception plays a large part in a person’s view.
Regardless of that perception’s merit (or otherwise), it negatively impacts individual motivation and the team’s morale and can lead to unethical behavior. As a leader, you play a crucial role in ensuring that you pay your team members fairly and recognize their work and performance fairly too.
FOCUS ON TEAMWORK
The emphasis is on teamwork, and while team members contribute in different ways, each person must understand the value their colleagues offer. It starts with the team understanding their individual and collective strengths and recognizing and valuing the strengths their colleagues bring to their position. Great leaders see value in each team member’s differences and recognize that each person is unique and has different needs. They work to bring out the best in each person, and each person feels valued, respected, and fairly treated.
Lastly, challenge yourself by asking, Am I an entitled leader? Encouraging your team member to change is challenging if you exhibit the same characteristics.
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