The entitlement mentality encouraged by President Obama and his fellow Democrats has found its way into the workplace. Entitlement mentality and work? The two concepts would seem to be mutually exclusive, would they not? One can be forgiven for thinking that people with jobs would, by definition, reject the entitlement mentality. After all, the entitlement mentality is about getting something for nothing. Employed people have to work for their pay, right? Maybe not. It seems the entitlement mentality encouraged by Democrats has infected even the working population. While there have always been people who want a job but don’t want to work, employers are reporting that the number of people who personify the entitlement mentality on the job is increasing at an alarming rate.
Wearing my corporate consultant’s hat, I recently led a brainstorming session of CEOs who had gotten together to discuss various problems they are facing. One of the executives, obviously frustrated, made the following statement: “I am paying too many employees who do nothing but sit around and make excuses for not doing their jobs. They seem to think they are entitled to a paycheck without doing any work.” His comment hit a nerve with the others in the room. As a result, discussion of the entitlement mentality at work dominated the rest of the meeting. The other CEOs were experiencing the same problem.
Operating in an environment characterized by fierce global competition, these CEOs need employees who are willing to work hard and work smart to get the job done correctly, on time, and within budget. Instead they are getting employees who act like work is something that intrudes on their day. Another CEO said, “I feel like I am paying some of my employees to do nothing more than text each other and play games on their hand-held devices.” This was a common theme among the CEOs’ complaints: employees spending more time fiddling with hand-held devices than doing the work they are paid to do. What bothered the CEOs even more than their employees being permanently attached to their smart phones was that these employees saw nothing wrong with using an electronic device on company time for personal reasons instead of doing their work.
Another CEO gave his opinion that too many of the recent college graduates his company interviews are more interested in how much time they have off than how they can succeed in his organization. He claimed that talking with some of his recently hired employees had been a real eye-opener. Because of liberal school policies and helicopter parents, for all of their lives these employees had been given everything they could possibly need except the two things they needed most: responsibility and accountability. First their helicopter parents spoiled them. Then their public school teachers required nothing of them. Finally, President Obama and his fellow Democrats told them, “Don’t worry about anything—the government will take care of you.” No wonder there are so many liberals and Democrats in America.
One CEO stated that several of his newer employees had expressed frustration at having to repay their government-backed student loans. One employee even told this CEO, “I don’t think it’s fair to ask me to pay back a student loan. I have a right to a college education and the government should be happy to pay for it.” When the CEO told this employee that the “government” he resented repaying was not just a bunch of faceless, nameless bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., but his friends, co-workers, and other taxpayers, the employee’s facial expression clearly conveyed the message, “And the problem with that is….?”
This group of CEOs decided that since it was obvious there are a lot of young people in America who have developed an entitlement mentality, and that these same young people are of prime working age, the problem of employing people who want a job but don’t want to work is going to continue and probably get worse. Further, weeding them out in the hiring process—although this should be done to the extent possible—is not going to completely solve the problem because when you eliminate an obviously entitled applicant his replacement will probably be even worse. The it’s-all-about-me attitude of entitled young adults is becoming all-pervasive.
Consequently, the CEOs decided to act out of self-defense. They asked me to help them develop two lists; lists that would then be converted into a two-sided document that would be used as part of the hiring process in their companies and would be discussed with all new employees by their supervisors. One side of the document would be titled “How to Fail in this Organization.” The other side would be titled, “How to Succeed in this Organization.” Every new employee would receive the document and be required to discuss it with his or her supervisor.
The contents of this two-sided document would represent nothing but a statement of the obvious to people of earlier generations, people for whom a positive work ethic was assumed and who believed they were entitled to only what they earned by working hard, working smart, and, when necessary, working long. But for the entitlement generation, its contents represent not just new ground, but alien ideas. Here are just a few of the success and failure statements we came up with during our meeting:
- Success: Come to work not just on-time every day, but early and while at work be diligent and focused. Avoid distractions that pull you away from your work (including smart phones and other electronic devices).
- Failure: Come to work late then, once you arrive, waste time talking with co-workers about non-work topics and sneak in as much time as you can talking to friends, watching movies, texting, and otherwise playing with your smart phone or office computer.
- Success: Develop a reputation for being a hard worker and the employee your boss goes to when there is an important project that needs to be done right, on time, and within budget.
- Failure: Avoid responsibility, refuse to work late when deadlines loom, and make excuses for not getting your work done right, on time, and within budget.
- Success: Don’t dash out the door the minute the clock strikes 5:00pm. Work up to and through the end of the work day, then spend a few minutes closing out your work and planning for the next day.
- Failure: Spend the work day watching the clock. Then dash out the door early if you think no one is watching.
- Success: Avoid taking long breaks, leaving early for lunch, and returning late after lunch. Set an example of industriousness and productivity for your co-workers.
- Failure: Take a lot of unnecessary breaks, leave early for lunch and return late. Set an example of doing just enough to get by.
The “success” and “failure” statements developed during our meeting were so obvious that I felt guilty about charging the CEOs for my time. But what is obvious to those of one generation may not be obvious to those of another. If employers must tell college graduates what it means to earn their paychecks, President Obama and his fellow entitlement Democrats have won the battle, if not the war. Their plan to transform young Americans into non-thinking, compliant sheep who think they are entitled to be taken care of is now a reality. In this sense, there is little difference between entitled people who think their employer owes them a living and their counterparts who think the government owes them a living. Perpetuating the entitlement mentality may keep Democrats in office, but it does nothing to help American businesses compete in the global arena. If the present trend continues unchecked, it won’t matter who is in office in Washington, because our seat of government will be in China.