An entire chapter in my book, Up Your Business, addressed the dangers of entitlement within organizations and offered remedies for weeding it out. In If You Don’t Make Waves You’ll Drown I presented ten strategies to combat the negative impact political correctness has on high performance business cultures. After watching trending cultural currents in recent months I am presenting additional strategies to explain how to survive and prosper despite the encroachment of a force as atrocious as either entitlement or political correctness: a potent mix of bitterness, envy, and resentment projected against financially prosperous entities by a swelling number of malcontents I’ll classify as the “ashamed generation.” Following are background observations that relay the evolution of this unsettling phenomenon. Afterward, I’ll present tactics to prevent its influence and values from infecting your culture.
- Finishing college and entering the workplace over the past years have been the first generation of kids brought up under the farcical “don’t keep score and everyone gets a trophy” philosophy. The intent behind “tell them they’re special, give them a participation trophy, and prohibit punishment for poor behavior because it might hurt their feelings” was designed to engender a higher level of self-esteem in young people. This failed approach has backfired by creating a generation largely marked by entitlement, selfishness, disrespect, and a false sense of their worth to the marketplace.
- Upon entering the workplace with an “I’ll be rewarded for showing up versus stepping up and life is obligated to make me happy” arrogance these folks are soon deflated by the realization that life isn’t easy, they aren’t special, and making it big will require work. The false self-worth built through two decades of political correctness quickly fades as they earn below-average wages, in ho-hum jobs, suffer for lack of discipline, weak character, and glean the first clues that despite all the smoke they’ve had blown up their collective backsides, they just might be losers.
- As they fail to live up to the hyped expectations created for them, they are shamed, demonstrating the principle that those not prepared for life will be shamed by life. Shame provokes one of two emotions in human beings: get your life together or blame others for your state. Many in this generation choose the latter.
- Human nature drives people to seek purpose in their lives and to make a difference in the world. When one begins to feel that making a difference by building something up is too difficult or out of reach, the alternative is to seek purpose and attention by tearing something down; in this case, the prosperous people and companies they’ve come to resent and envy. Sadly, the ashamed generation failed to learn in their PC classroom that throwing rocks at another man’s Bentley won’t get them out of their rusted out Yugo. Ironically, this group’s mindset has infected generations beyond their own, attracting adherents from past eras who struggled, gave up, have been going through the motions, and in defeat decide to latch onto the same blame bandwagon embraced by the ashamed generation.
- Thankfully, there are many from the ashamed generations’ era who were raised in a manner that made them understand and appreciate the value of earn and deserve, and discount the whole concept of monuments to mediocrity like the participation trophies, and the unearned praise and weekly allowances their counterparts relied on for affirmation. They learned discipline, respect, hard work, and personal responsibility. They are refreshing exceptions to the huddled mass of their counterparts crowing out their chorus of complaints and demands. Many of these fine young men and women make meaningful contributions to businesses, churches, volunteer organizations, and the armed forces.
To those caught up in the entitled, bitter, and envious mindset that pervades the ashamed generation, I suggest the following:
- No one is impressed with the spin your parents and teachers fed you about how special you are. Respect is earned through the consistent demonstration of character, competence, and results. All life owes you is what you’ve earned and deserve.
- If you are one of the moochers circulating petitions asking the government to eliminate your share of the one trillion dollars in outstanding student loans, forget about it. When you go to the party and leave with the goods, you pay the tab.
- Gather your worthless participation ribbons, trophies, and other testaments to your mediocrity and toss them. Then borrow a dictionary and look up the words earn and deserve; memorize them and begin to live according to their standards. Here’s a head start: earn is defined as having acquired through merit, or in return for labor or service. Deserve is defined as being worthy of or qualified for. Ponder these concepts before you make your next demand to receive something for nothing.
- Shut up and pay up. Many of the hardworking people you’re assailing pay six and seven figures in income taxes annually, you pay squat—and you’re ticked off at them? Don’t cry “pay your fair share” when you pay little or no share at all.
- If you’re a Warren Buffet-type, ashamed generation sympathizer, and don’t believe you pay enough in taxes, simply write a check to the IRS to relieve your guilt and leave the rest of us alone.
To those endeavoring to thrive in their business despite the assault of the ashamed driven generation’s mindset and its potential to affect morale at all levels within your organization, consider the following.
- Make it extremely difficult to get hired. Dig into an applicant’s life and determine what they’ve done, overcome, and flush out their life philosophy on hard work, success, prosperity, earn and deserve. Don’t give questionable candidates the benefit of the doubt during the interview, and if doubts linger, keep looking.
- Don’t reduce your vision or standards to accommodate the comfort zones of others. Rather, stretch your people to reach your expectations and if they don’t measure up remove them.
- Require team members to qualify based on past performance for the right to participate in spiff programs, contests, and other perks they now take for granted. If they don’t average producing “X” over the past 90 days, they cannot participate in incentive programs whatsoever. This earn and deserve philosophy will help weed out entitlement and make those who do qualify for your generosity more appreciative.
- Require the team to qualify for perks they now take for granted, ranging from donuts on Fridays to lunches on Saturdays. In order to get their free lunch on Saturday, they must collectively produce at least “X” during the week. This simple change in your earn and deserve philosophy will begin to change attitudes toward benefits people now take for granted and evoke more humility and gratitude.
- Celebrate excellence in your organization by launching a top performers club where people qualify quarterly. Give the winners the best schedule, office, opportunities and more. When the whiners squawk about how unfair life is simply tell them, “When you do what they’ve done, you can get what they’ve got.”
- Install minimum performance standards that cause the laggards to fire themselves faster if they cannot attain them. Letting underachievers stay on a great team is the equivalent of giving them an adult participation trophy.
- Replace longevity bonuses with performance bonuses. This eliminates entitlement and sets the standard that tenure, experience, and credentials don’t substitute for results—and in your organization people are rewarded for stepping up, not simply for showing up.
The cultural currents and trends in society surrounding your enterprise will adversely influence and infect your culture unless you take deliberate steps to protect it. If you fail to shape your business culture according to personal values and standards, society’s values and trends will shape it for you—to your great disgust and peril.