By Michael Gunther

Entitlement. It’s an interesting concept that seems to have worked its way into every corner of the workplace. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, entitlement is a belief that one deserves certain privileges. In the workplace, many employees feel that they are entitled to raises, days off, promotions, and other benefits, and don’t necessarily think they should have to work for them. I know this because I regularly hear about this issue from business owners.

No Entitlements in Life
Entitlement is an interesting concept to me; growing up in a household of 17 kids made it hard to ever feel entitled. My parents did an exceptional job providing for our needs, but our ‘wants’ had to be earned. We learned from an early age that if we wanted something, we had to take responsibility, work hard, and go get it; consequently, we all had various jobs ranging from babysitting and cleaning houses to mowing yards and managing paper routes. Eventually, we became very good at turning true wants into goals. In essence, my parents created a household of entrepreneurs.

Although there were numerous situations where I had to work for my wants, one in particular stands out. My parents initially enrolled their children in a private high school; however, they eventually stopped because of the cost. The younger siblings (myself included) would have to go to public high school. When it was my turn to go to high school, I had a strong desire to attend a private school like some of my siblings did. My parents made me a deal: they would pay for my tuition my first year (I would pay for my books and incidentals), I would be responsible for half the tuition my junior year and all of the tuition my senior year. I took the deal.

Once we made the agreement, I realized I not only had the desire to attend the private school, I had the drive. I worked various jobs – from McDonald’s to babysitting to valet parking – and took the responsibility to make sure I could pay my way. And I am so thankful that my parents taught me this lesson early in life. Successfully meeting this goal gave me the confidence to know that I can create whatever I want, if I am willing to take the responsibility and make the effort. This is contrary to the entitlement attitude we hear of so often from employees in the workplace.

No Entitlements in Business
As business owners, our employees tend to rely on us to lead the charge in providing them with the opportunities to learn, expand their responsibility, and provide them with a living; however, what we business owners need to realize is that we have the opportunity to teach our employees to earn what they want, and not to expect that it be handed to them. Just recently, one of my team members, Eric Hubbs, wanted to hire a personal coach to enhance his skills and asked if Collaboration would pay for it. I told him that the company would pay for half of it only if we as a company achieved our quarterly revenue goals. This allowed Eric the opportunity to take responsibility and earn what he wanted. And he did just that!

Do your employees act as though they’re entitled to that annual bonus, new sales training, or birthday lunch? You can change that by teaching your employees that they can have increased benefits, pay, and responsibilities, but that they will need to assist in creating additional revenue and opportunities to support those goals. I try to never say “no” to an employee’s request. Instead, I ask “how can we make that happen within our current budget and structure?” This methodology takes the ‘entitlement’ attitude and turns it into a ‘you can create what you want’ attitude. It helps the employee, the business owner, and the company to grow. Bye-bye, entitlement. Hello, goal setting.

The Bottom Line
Employees need incentives and growth opportunities. Shift the entitlement attitude by offering them the opportunity to create what they want through their own hard work and focus. This approach creates an opportunity for innovation, teaches employees about goal-setting, and gives them a chance to experience the success of reaching their goals – all of which help propel an organization forward.

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