The stereotype of “entitled millennials” shows up constantly in pop culture, think pieces, and the frustrated grumblings of our parents. Frankly, it’s a reductive and lazy way to dismiss a whole generation, but it’s a concept that won’t be disappearing any time soon. And according to Forbes, many workplaces unintentionally encourage this attitude from their millennial employees. “Entitlement” can in fact reap positive results in a career context, including a greater willingness to express concerns and approach situations in a proactive manner. Whether you view entitlement in a positive or negative light, working millennials should pay attention to these three ways in which employers implicitly promote entitled behavior.
1. Offering “golden hellos” to new employees.
Before making a new hire, companies look to strategic marketing techniques to locate and attract a desirable pool of candidates. Recent hiring trends have shown a propensity toward “golden hellos”, or offerings of extraordinary benefits, promises of future promotions and unrealistically-favorable conditions, and the use of job-listing language specifically aimed at young people relatively new to the work world. These marketing campaigns can effectively drum up interest in the millennial demographic, but once these companies make their new hires, they find themselves dealing with inflated expectations that they may or may not have the capacity to fulfill. In turn, the millennial employees are conditioned to elevate their standards, which forces companies to reevaluate their policies and compensation packages.
2. Ignoring negative entitled actions altogether.
The fact that employers value peaceful environments is nothing new, but as millennials continue to flood the workforce, companies strive ever harder to maintain a conflict-free status quo. As a result, many employers choose not to call out individual displays of entitlement, leading their young employees to see these actions as acceptable ways to get things done. Forbes compares on-the-job entitlement to parent-teacher relations: “Just as teachers sometimes award high grades to undeserving students to avoid student and parent backlash, organizations turn a blind eye to entitlement in the name of workplace peace.”
Queens University industrial psychology professor Glenda Fisk warns against the potential consequences of ignoring entitled attitudes, suggesting that allowing (and even rewarding) entitled behavior can make the problem more widespread, as others will observe these exchanges and adopt similar methods of addressing workplace conflicts.
3. Compensating with fixed salaries, regardless of the amount or quality of work done.
Many companies handle payroll with fixed salaries, paying employees the same amount each pay period without logging actual hours worked or otherwise measuring productivity. White-collar professionals typically expect this payment structure, but according to Forbes, it can ultimately discourage employees from working to their full potential, since they know that they’ll receive the same paycheck no matter what. Forbes compares this situation to grade inflation in academia, stating that “[grade inflation] demotivates students because they come to expect more reward for less work.” It’s a dubious claim, since fixed salaries are far from a new phenomenon, but millennials who want to shy away from perceived entitlement may want to seek out companies that don’t offer this compensation package.
Of course, entitlement in the workplace isn’t always negative. Forbes even admits as much, stating that “employees see their status as enhanced by being agreeable, but it rarely is. Instead, dominant workers get ahead. Though we like agreeable people, we don’t promote them.” If millennial workers (and their Gen X/Baby Boomer employers) can re-frame entitlement as a positive attribute, they may see higher yields and greater fulfillment among their employees, regardless of age.