Entitlement is perhaps the top word associated with the Millennial generation. In fact, 71 percent of American adults think of Millennials as "selfish," and 65 percent think Millennials are "entitled." Whether or not you believe the "entitlement" label is accurate, perception is reality.
Some of the Millennial behaviors labeled as entitled are...
- Expecting to land a job upon graduating from college.
- Demanding a certain salary or promotion.
- Assuming specific flexible hours at work.
Unaddressed entitlement in your Millennial workers can result in unethical behaviors, higher turnover, underperformance, lower job satisfaction, and/or loss of leadership influence, as Millennials might view their managers as unreasonable, hard headed, or irrelevant. Understanding the origin of Millennial entitlement--or at least the perception thereof--is helpful before addressing entitlement issues.
The 5 Contributors of Millennial 'Entitlement'
To a high degree, entitlement is a learned behavior. Millennials never thought of themselves as entitled, but their parents believed they were entitled to everything--thus the emergence of "helicopter parents." It may have been a noble parenting style, but it had unexpected ramifications that infused different behaviors and expectations into an entire generation.
2. Human Nature
Entitlement is a human condition that is not exclusive to Millennials. Humans are selfish by nature. We have to work hard and intentionally to overcome or suppress our selfish behaviors.
Maturity is the ability to see and act on the behalf of others, while immaturity is not seeing things from someone else's point of view. In many cases, it's natural for Millennials to exude entitlement because they are immature in their grasp of workplace dynamics.
In addition, the human brain continues to develop until a person is around twenty-five. Buying a house, getting married, and having kids helps to accelerate maturity and an others-first mentality, but Millennials are waiting longer than previous generations did to enter those life stages.
3. Knowledge and Skill Shift
Sixty-eight percent of hiring managers say that Millennials have skills that prior generations do not. For the first time in history, the emerging generations have knowledge and skills that previous generations do not.
Some Millennials' entitlement stems from their view that they are more knowledgeable in select areas, giving greater weight to their viewpoints or actions there. Millennials may overstep traditional workplace or hierarchy boundaries to share their unique perspective or expertise to help their teams be more innovative and efficient.
The connected world has empowered Millennials to take ownership. Glassdoor and LinkedIn allow ownership of one's career. YouTube allows ownership of one's content. Instagram and Snapchat allow ownership of one's personal brand. Netflix allows ownership of one's content consumption.
The Internet has offered Millennials personalization and customization at every turn of their lives, and now they expect the same control at work and in their careers.
Millennials are skeptical of "paying their dues" due to the mistrust between employer and employee that they've witnessed firsthand in their parents' situations. Thus, Millennials approach their career like free agents, taking ownership and looking for new opportunities or creating their own through entrepreneurship.
The rejection of the traditional career path and workplace norms is perceived by many as "entitlement," but perhaps a better descriptor is ownership or empowered. Millennials are not interested in spending hours commuting to work, working for years in the mere hope of promotion, and sitting at a desk from nine to five for the only reason that "this is how it's always been." That's the opposite of ownership.
Millennials are interested in ownership, freedom, legacy, and impact during their careers, not just at the end. This is a noble quest that any generation can get behind.
5. Fast Times
We live in fast times, changing times. In fact, famed futurist and author Ray Kurzweil believes that we will experience not a hundred years of progress in the twenty-first century but twenty thousand--thanks to technology.
Millennials have new expectations of what's possible and are less tolerant of what once was because of today's fast times. This results in behaviors that are perceived as "entitled," because Millennials...
- are less tolerant of not moving fast.
- are better educated on today's "new world."
- live in a world where success can be achieved faster.
- have mastered tools (technology, apps, software, etc.) that have leveled the playing field.
- have been empowered by a freelance economy to create something for themselves.
- have an abundant and boundless mindset that provides them with endless optimism, confidence, and passion.
These behaviors might make Millennials entitled...or it might make them the next generation of empowered and engaged workers.
(Discover more generational strategies in Ryan's new book, The Millennial Manual: The Complete How-To Guide to Manage, Develop, and Engage Millennials at Work.)