September 25, 2017
 
Employee Entitlement in the Nonprofit Workplace

By Eric Cormier

Eric Cormier
In a nonprofit setting, where financial and other resources often are constrained and a spirit of common cause is essential to getting the job done successfully, it is vital that employers recognize and address self-entitlement issues in the workforce quickly and effectively.

It’s important to move quickly because self-entitlement among employees can have an especially disruptive impact on an organization, creating ill will among workers and managers, diminishing morale, inhibiting productivity, and creating roadblocks to attainment of organizational goals.

Typically, self-entitled employees feel that their organization owes them for coming to work and for being loyal. They may overvalue their skills or contributions to their employer and believe that they are guaranteed certain privileges, especially if they got them in the past. They may also feel they can do no wrong. Often, these same employees voice concern over changes to corporate policies, culture and processes, as they fear change will affect their position.

Entitlement issues often surface among individuals who have spent many years with an organization, particularly a nonprofit for which he or she is passionate and may have given a great deal of time. The thought is: “I’ve given this organization so much; I deserve special treatment.”

Although this “me-not-we” thinking is problematic, it is not necessarily irreversible. Here are some tips for managers:
  • Address the behavior. Entitled employees may not even recognize that they are behaving poorly. Managers who are reluctant to address this behavior will only increase the likelihood of employee conflicts in the future.
    Avoid saying: “Your sense of entitlement is disruptive to everyone and affecting the team.”

    Instead, try: “I appreciate your knowledge of the company; your insight can really help the company and the team. However, it is important that you understand and accept different views and opinions.”
  • Communicate effectively and consistently with employees. Employees need to know what is expected of them. Managers should discuss these expectations and let employees know what they need to do to move forward in their careers. Additionally, managers should stress that it is not solely the responsibility of the employer to help the employee advance his or her career; employees need to take a proactive role in shaping their careers and their success.
    Avoid saying: “It’s solely up to you to determine where you are going in your career.”

    Instead, try: “What are your future goals with the company? How can we work together to help you achieve them?”
  • Encourage employee ownership in the organization. There is give and take in every workplace. Entitled employees need to understand that the company is entitled to something, too. However, if they are unhappy about an aspect of the business, they should be encouraged to work to improve the situation.
    Avoid saying: “This is not all about you; it’s about the company.”

    Instead, try: “The company is always open to ideas and suggestions on how we could improve our processes. I’m open to your thoughts.”
  • Create positive employee interactions. Beware of tone and word choice. The goal is to help the employee recognize his or her entitlement issues and eliminate them, not to build walls and create defenses that hinder honest communication.
    Avoid saying: “You seem to be stuck in your ways. You need to change how you work.”

    Instead, try: “I think it is important to encourage everyone to think of new ways to approach how they work. ”
  • Document negative behavior. If after positive intervention the employee’s behavior does not improve, it may make sense to part ways with him or her. As mentioned previously, a bad attitude can negatively impact other workers and the organization’s culture.
    Avoid saying: “This isn’t working, as you seem unwilling to change. You probably should leave the company.”

    Instead, try: “This can work, but as an organization we have to be open to change and accept that there may be different solutions to the same problem. I encourage you to think about your role here and if this is the right fit for you.”
By addressing entitlement issues directly and in a timely manner, employers can help employees more fully engage with their own careers and simultaneously strengthen their organizations.

Eric Cormier is a human resources specialist in the Boston office of Insperity, a national provider of human resources and business performance solutions, whose clients include a variety of nonprofit organizations. Call 800-465-3800 or visit www.insperity.com.
March 2014

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