Judith M. Bardwick, Ph.D.
The Entitlement Syndrome destroys a company’s ability to compete. Everyone must feel ownership and contribute to the organizations success.
Entitlement Cripples Organizations
Gradually, insidiously, economic growth since WWII has created a crippling attitude in some companies called “Entitlement”. That’s when employees have no real motivation to achieve, and managers have more or less come to accept something other than top performance.
In many quarters of industry, we’ve moved from an attitude of self-sufficiency to one of “I’m entitled to a good salary, benefits and lifetime job security. No one said all this was dependent on my performance.”
Corporations can no longer afford to sustain Entitlement. People who have been entitled too long find themselves without the skills and vitality they need in order to cope with change. Since they’re without confidence, they lack the discipline to persevere or the courage to win.
When I lecture, I ask managers whether there is an Entitlement mindset in their organizations. In some cases, they feel that’s the case; in some cases, not.
Breaking the Entitlement Pattern
Some of the ways in which a company can move from an Entitlement mindset to the attitude I call “Earning” include increasing accountability through evaluation; requiring ongoing risk-taking; flattening the hierarchy and increasing the visibility of the “players”, vigorously addressing poor performance; and reinforcing a system of meritocracy. Whenever employees are generally protected from the risk of losing their jobs for non-performance, job performance deteriorates. There should be a reasonable amount of job security in a company, but it should be earned.
The Career Plateau Today
On another subject, a natural outgrowth of corporate downsizing is a reduction in the number of management and senior level jobs available and a general dimishment in upward movement. Plateauing is not a new problem. Sooner or later, everyone reaches a plateau. But it needn’t be the end of the world. There are some things an individual can do about it, and the key element is the willingness to change and grow.
When there are fewer opportunities for promotion, people need to restructure their thinking about success in work. They may have to change old habits of thinking, old values and old ambitions because they’re no longer routes to success.
The desire to change and learn must start within. If people wait for their company or their managers to create all the opportunities for change and challenge, they yield all control of their own destiny.
Broadening Your Skills
How do people on a Career Plateau take the initiative in broadening their skills? First, look for something new that you can learn that is related to the business. Perhaps it is learning new techniques to use in the present job, or learning skills related to another job or another field. The main thing is, broaden yourself, and make yourself more valuable. Study where the company is going to see what skills may be needed. You may be able to get in on the ground floor of something new.
Managers can help employees by asking them to suggest how their skills might be better utilized. Employees may have skills of which you were unaware, or skills that seem more relevant in light of change.
In summary, the worst mistake a plateaued employee can make is to assume that, by virtue of years with the company; he or she is “entitled” to a job. Basically, the plateaued employer must ask, “How can I make some new contributions?”