Entitlement and Enabling: who is at fault, the employee or the owner?

I met with Ted to discuss his career options. Ted has been employed by his company for a
number of years. Ted is in his mid forties. His story is heard often these days.

As he laid out his issues, I heard The Entitlement Blues playing in the background. It’s a song
we have all played and maybe sang at one point or another.

To help Ted discover the underlying issues, I asked questions, helping to frame things,
learning that he had seven management peers at his employer.

“Where do you rank in that list?” I asked. Ted said “probably fifth” but added the ranking
was on years of service.

I asked Ted how he ranked himself based on metrics that the company used to measure
success. He thought and said he would rank third or fourth.

If I was the boss, I asked him, why would I either promote you or give you a raise over the
other managers with higher ratings?

“Because I deserve it”, he told me. “I’ve been working my butt off, I have been there for
many years and …” His voice trailed off.

His answer was all emotion; no facts or logic.

Ted is no different than many other managers and employees who have been working at a
place for years and expected automatic raises.

What Ted doesn’t realize is that those days are history for himself, his company, his
industry.

Because Ted has been working for many years at the same place, he has a very limited view.
Ted isn’t paying attention to the changes in the world and I noticed that he isn’t paying
attention to what is taking place at his own company.

Ted’s company isn’t laying anyone off, but those that leave are not being replaced. More is
expected from those who are on the payroll. Costs are being reduced wherever possible.
Raises aren’t being given; times are tough and have been for years.

What Ted does hear, from his friends and family, is that there are plenty of people out of
work who can’t find jobs. Ted believes what he wants to; and believes that if someone can’t
find a job, it is because they really don’t want to work.

Ted doesn’t hear that hardly anyone is getting raises these days, and the raises that are
given are small. More companies now have pay for performance programs where if a
person delivers results, they are rewarded. If they don’t perform, there is not only no
performance pay, people are often replaced.

Ted is living pretty much in the past. He is in denial about his own situation, that of his
employer and of the world around him. That much of this has taken place since 2008, you
have to wonder what planet Ted lives on.

The lesson I shared with Ted is one of awareness. Ted had not yet grasped the brutal facts
of his current situation.

Instead of complaining about the lack of regular raises, and how cheap and mean the owner
of the business was, Ted might have taken the initiative to find out what he could as a
manager to improve revenue, reduce expenses and improve cash flow and profits.

As a manager, Ted should know how to positively impact key performance drivers and
metrics. But Ted was feeling sorry for himself and angry at the boss instead of looking in
the mirror. He kept his bad attitude in the way of learning how to help the company. His
company, the one that gave him a paycheck every two weeks for many years.

But Ted wasn’t the only one at fault in this situation. The owner also bears some
responsibility for the failure to educate the employees what they could do to help improve
things. Keeping information private is the right of every owner, but keeping too much
information private means you won’t have anyone helping you turn things around.

So while Ted is guilty of an entitlement attitude, the owner is guilty of enabling the
employees. It’s a recipe for anger, bitterness, frustration and poor business results.

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