Working with an entitled team member is challenging, and so too is managing an entitled team member.
Employees with high psychological entitlement morally rationalise their behaviour 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 behaviour, 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. So, be ready to spot the warning signs and act on them.
You can listen to the tips I share on the Business Essentials Daily podcast. As well, 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:
- more pay than their peers, even though they do less work and add less value
- to always be promoted or offered the best opportunities
- a bonus, every year, even if the company’s performance has deteriorated
- to pick and choose the tasks they want to do
- the organisation 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 behaviour or wants have on those around them. They see themselves as ‘number one’ and expect priority.
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 are expecting a pay rise, talk about what they need to demonstrate to secure a pay rise. If the team member is always wanting the Friday off before a public holiday, work through the options and what is fair for others in the team.
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. Perhaps there is 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 with an understanding of their perspective, 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 have to 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, you may want to consider going down a formal performance improvement path.
Be consistent and fair
In your approach and the outcomes, you must maintain consistency in how you apply expectations with the team members and across the team. You don’t want to be unfair or play favourites.
We are acutely aware of when leaders treat people differently. We see when people are rewarded and promoted in a way that seems unfair. 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 behaviour.
As a leader, you play a crucial role in ensuring that you pay your team members fairly and recognise 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 recognising and valuing the strengths their colleagues bring to their position.
Great leaders see value in each team member’s difference and recognise 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?’. It’s hard to encourage your team member to change if you are exhibiting the same characteristics.
Getting you ready for tomorrow, today®
Michelle Gibbings is bringing back the happy to workplace culture. The award-winning author of three books, and a global keynote speaker, she’s on a mission to help leaders, teams and organisations create successful workplaces – where people thrive and progress is accelerated.