Embracing The Entitled

Be honest; when you read the title of our SRA Update, did it
immediately conjure up an image of a selfie-taking, social media
addicted, text-obsessed millennial? Before we go any further, let
us first take a moment and apologize to the recent generation
entering the workforce. Turns out, there may not be any increase at
all in narcissism over the past few decades. In a scientific
analysis of approximately one-half million high-school seniors over
three decades, Brent Donnellan and Kali Trzesniewski of the
University of Western Ontario argue teens today are no more
egotistical (and actually, just as happy and content) as previous

“We concluded that, more often than not, kids these days are
about the same as they were back in the mid-1970s,” said
Donnellan, associate professor of psychology. They also stated that
their findings show that entitlement changes dramatically with
maturity in comparison to nominal generational changes. In other
words, it’s not that people born after 1980 are self-absorbed –
it’s that young people are, and they get over themselves as they
get older.

On the other hand, aren’t we all working alongside some select
individuals who haven’t “gotten over themselves?” In nearly
every professional environment, it is not uncommon to encounter
those who have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep
need for admiration and an occasional lack of empathy for others.
These individuals can range from recent college grads to the most
tenured of staff, and some could even be some of the most valued
players on the team! An effective leader needs to be able to lead,
manage and inspire all personality types, including how to embrace
the entitled.

Memory Lane

Although tales that start with “back in my day” typically
fall on deaf ears (or are met with an eyeball roll), it may be
meaningful to take a trip down memory lane at times. Newer
employees may not know the sacrifices that their company was built
upon; consider creating a milestone wall or worksheet documenting
key turning points in the history of the company. Reviewing a
company’s past can help emphasize the sacrifices that were made,
the noteworthy accomplishments along the way, and a common
understanding of where the firm started and how it evolved to where
it is today.

Special vs. Appreciated

Words matter. Consider the difference between “you have a face
that makes time stand still” and “you have a face that could
stop a clock.” Entitled individuals believe themselves to be more
special than others; frame your vocabulary to play against this
notion. Instead of “you are the best hire we have ever made in
this department” or “we would be lost without you,” focus
instead on expressing appreciation for a job well done. Statements
such as “I appreciate the hard work you put in to meeting your
quarterly numbers” or “I am incredibly thankful for the
leadership role you played in retaining our key clients” focus
more on the work being done as opposed to the uniqueness and rarity
of the person doing the work. Call attention to the specific action
or behavior, and then offer up genuine thanks and gratitude.

The “I” in Team

To encourage self-absorbed individuals to look outside their
lens of individuality, add some components to their set of
responsibilities that require the success of others. This could be
accomplished by tying a portion of compensation or bonus to the
success of new hires, the team, or organization as a whole.
Alternatively, the individual could be assigned as a mentor to
up-and-coming associates, where praise is given to the collective
and expectations are set for cooperative achievement.

Great Expectations

Be exceptionally clear (and when at all possible, measurable)
with any and all expectations. Consider going beyond “pass or
fail” and instead communicate clearly what deficient (failure),
competent (good enough to get by), and proficient (exceptional)
behavior or results look like. Then, stick to them firmly. If you
don’t, you can actually create a deepened sense of entitlement as
employees learn to manipulate your rules. The expectations could
include things like desired behaviors, time in office, work ethic,
required results, or any other guidelines that allow an employee to
know they are meeting or exceeding expectations. Resist the urge to
simply say “I’ll know a job well done when I see it” – if
you can’t articulate expectations clearly, employees will never
know if they’ve achieved them. This is when a disconnect happens,
ambiguity sets in, and the foundation of the relationship begins to

Set Them Up to Fail

Gasp! Before you scramble for your Leadership 101 Handbook that
says a great leader would never do such a thing, many would
acknowledge that it was through their greatest struggles that their
greatest achievements were born. More often than not, those who
history best remembers were faced with numerous obstacles that
forced them to work harder and show more determination than

Entitled employees tend to stay within their comfort zones and
take few risks. Set a stretch goal for those who feel they cannot
fail, but do not chastise for shortfalls or lack of success.
Instead, allow for the individual to embrace the mistakes made, the
skills that are not yet developed, and the opportunities for growth
that lie ahead. In fact, many great leaders would say they don’t
just accept failure, they encourage it!

Perhaps even more important? Deep down, we all want to be
involved with an important project that challenges us. When we give
a tough objective and let an employee know it will take everything
they’ve got, it communicates that we actually take them seriously
and give them permission to take risks that result in growth –
either due to failure or due to success.

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for the Hospitality industry

Horizon Hospitality is a member of the Sanford Rose Associates®
network of offices. Executive Search Review has recognized Sanford
Rose Associates® as the 9th largest search firm in the world. To
learn more about creating a confident team and environment, please
reach out to your Horizon Hospitality executive search associate
—Scott Samuels | CEO | Horizon Hospitality

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Embracing The Entitled
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Embracing The Entitled