Judith M. Bardwick, Ph.D.
The United States was so rich for so long that many organizations stopped asking
people to earn their keep; promotions and raises were automatic and job security
was taken for granted. Everybody got too comfortable. The results: complacency,
low productivity, and the downward spiral of Entitlement.
Entitlement is the firmly embedded sense that what you get is a right, rather
than something that has to be earned. In organizations where an attitude of
Entitlement prevails, performance is low; so are commitment, accountability, and
enthusiasm. What is worse, self-confidence is destroyed, so people get stuck.
In this era of intense global competition, organizations are under tremendous
pressure to improve their productivity. To keep their jobs, employees are suddenly
required to produce. If they have been used to an atmosphere of Entitlement,
they usually react with Fear. When Fear overtakes a company, people are afraid
to speak up and afraid to try something new. Turf defense replaces teamwork,
stress runs high, and cynicism and mistrust flourish. So, for opposite reasons, Fear is
as detrimental to productivity as Entitlement.
Between Entitlement and Fear, between too much security and too little, lies
the psychology of Earning. That is the attitude everyone must have if the
organization is to prosper and individuals flourish. Another word for it is risk: there is
some risk involved. People can no longer take rewards for granted, but the odds
are good that they can succeed.
Managing this sense of risk-increasing it when people are too complacent,
decreasing it when they are too afraid-is a new way to look at the old problem of
performance and motivation. When we achieve the optimal balance between
security and risk, then conditions are right for high confidence, high performance,
and high productivity.