“I Want Your Job (….Can’t You Just Give it to Me?)”

My friend Glen hired a young man (who I’ll call John), as an apprentice at his company. Glen established ground rules which were of the “work hard, learn as much as you can” variety. If John followed these ground rules, in six months he would move into a new and more challenging position, possibly even a position of his preference.

OK. I know you’re clairvoyant, so it won’t surprise to learn that it didn’t work out. John was lazy and did the bare minimum to get by. Glen had the first of several “shape up” conversations with John during his first week on the job, but John’s behavior never changed.

At the end of their exit discussion on John’s last day Glen asked, “By the way, if you had the choice, which position would you have wanted?” to which John replied, “Yours, of course.”

Although some arrogance was entirely predictable, it still astonished me that John had the chutzpah to say this.

I often see reasonably hard-working people who feel entitled to promotions or compensation beyond what their employers are willing to give them. This example was so preposterous because John did nothing during his tenure at the company that reflected characteristics such as initiative, curiosity, or a strong work ethic.

I want to highlight two takeaways. First, this anecdote is a sober reminder of the importance of supervision. You can’t hire someone – at any level – and just leave it to their judgment to work at the level of your expectations. You need to establish those expectations and monitor their progress.

Second, the personal aspirations that accompany attitudes of entitlement need to be carefully managed. Leaders need to have ongoing dialogue to manage the gap between their assessments of their employees and the employees’ self-perceptions of how wonderful they are.

I know that working with entitled employees is tiresome, but it’s not a passing fad. Regrettably, I don’t see it going away anytime soon.

Have a great week!

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