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Entitlement behavior is pure compromise

entitlement-2This may be one painful "wake-up" because I'm going to give a culture contaminating behavior that exists in your business a full broadside. It's called "entitlement behavior" and you need to purge it from your company. In extremely embedded cases, the purging may even require a total leadership makeover. The problem is, most leaders refuse to acknowledge the problem even exists and that they - and their egos - are fueling it.

At the leadership level, entitlement behavior is best described as "do as I say, not as I do" behavior patterns. It's when leaders come in late, fail to follow procedures they themselves established, and generally do what they want - simply because they are the leader. But entitlement behavior goes critical when leaders begin sapping the company by using the company checkbook as if it were their own. I've seen exotic cars, vacations, mortgage payments, college tuition - even home landscaping - run through the business. And I've seen trust issues and resentment contaminate otherwise great companies when leaders tell employees there's no money for raises, benefits, training and upgrading equipment and facility. It doesn't matter if the leader is the owner of the company or not, it is his or her responsibility and duty to protect the integrity of the company - not sap the company at the expense of others.

Leaders further contaminate their cultures by bestowing entitlement behavior to "favorite" individuals or groups. This instantly creates a double standard and broadcasts severely mixed messages to every nook and cranny of the organization. Many are held accountable while some are not. Some get special treatment and privileges while many do not. And when leaders stand before their teams and speak of vision, values, goals and teamwork, they're frustrated by the obvious apathy and discontent. I hear them say things like, "Don't they get what I'm trying to do for them?" If they only knew the answer was the face staring back at them in the mirror.

What about those leaders that live by the rules and policies and procedures they expect others to follow and don't sap their company? Why do these otherwise fine leaders have entitlement behaviors in their companies? Again the answer is staring at them in the mirror. Leaders allow entitlement behaviors to infect their cultures by failing to engage and correct the behaviors when they surface. Rest assured, every company has its share of employees that continually push and test company rules, policies and procedures. When leaders fail to address the behaviors through one-on-ones, coaching, write-ups or formal reprimands, the behaviors become embedded. There is a direct correlation between the length of time entitlement behaviors continue and the leadership energy required to correct it. If the leaders lack the skills to work through these crucial conversations and coaching, the only way to eliminate the behaviors is for them to leave with the employee.

Yes, it all comes back to leadership. Fish stinks from the head down. Rank does have its privileges. But rank should be earned through hard work, stellar performance, mentor-level behaviors and supporting the values and vision of the company. The moment entitlement behavior and double standards surface in a company, the culture is officially contaminated. The question is, will the leader engage? And if so, how long will it take for the leader to engage?

Keeping a culture is the tough work of leadership. Like keeping weeds out of your garden, it's the type of work that never ends. If entitlement behavior exists in your company, it's time to start the process of weeding it out - now. Your company will never achieve its true potential and vision dragging entitlement behavior along. Cut it loose.

Pass this email on to your business colleagues, managers and friends.

Neil Ducoff, Strategies founder & CEO and author of No-Compromise Leadership


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