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Entitlement is a stealthy and dangerous virus that has a widespread and abundant impact on your business.

Often it becomes so rampant and routine that small business owners and entrepreneurs do not even know any entitlement issues are going on right in front of them.


Let’s start with understanding entitlement.

Simply, it is when an individual believes they deserve to be treated differently than the rest of those around them.

In business, entitlement exists when employees or senior executives believe they should receive better or different treatment than their coworkers.

Here is an example of the primary form of employee entitlement.

Consider a long-time employee – the one that has been with your organization the longest and has “tenure.” It is ubiquitous in this scenario for an employee to have a sense of privilege.

They justify the fact that they are the most seasoned employee with the organization, and even because of their invested time, they “carry the load” for the organization.

This form of entitlement manifests itself as a lack of teamwork and performance compared to others.  This employee is selling themselves as the critical ingredient to the team/business instead of part of it. Even worse, it shows up in interactions with customers.

The individuals that feel privileged carry themselves with an overly confident attitude. They often take on more authority on decision-making than their role encompasses and will make statements or pass judgment to others as if they are speaking on the owner’s behalf. This may harmfully sway the opinions of other team members and can cause low morale.

Overcoming the Entitlement Attitude

Overcoming or protecting you and your business from this form of entitlement is not always easy, but here are several ideas.

  • Address the issue – When the long-term employee makes statements about their time devoted or dedication, address it. Saying nothing is not an option as it gives the employee a false sense of being right.

Practice shows that when you respond with a simple statement that clarifies that tenure does not dictate the level of loyalty, you usually stop any potential problem in its tracks.

  • Institute performance measures that are quantitative. This means that everyone is reviewed and analyzed across the same performance criteria.

Often you find that the perceived “entitled” employee does not work as hard as their coworkers because they think they have proven themselves to you.  Quantitive metrics ends this perception.

  • Design a recognition program. An employee of the month program that recognizes employee contributions goes a long way in putting everyone on a level playing field.
  • Be an owner, not a friend. Long-time employees are like family in the business. They have been with you for a significant amount of time.

However, just like working with family, you must be the owner and a “performance coach” instead of friends. This helps to create clear boundaries while maintaining relationships outside of work.

The Bible

Entitlement culture teaches that we deserve to have things given to us and have special privileges.

Those enmeshed in entitlement culture believe strongly that the whole world revolves around their perceived rights, needs, and wants. Its rallying cries are “my way,” “my rights,” and “I deserve.”

Within American society, certain rights are acknowledged as God-given and inalienable. But the entitlement culture takes it further, presuming rights that are neither divinely granted nor constitutionally guaranteed.

Some people in the Bible had a sense of entitlement.

Many Jews in Jesus’ day had an idea that they were entitled to God’s blessings by the very fact they were Jews—a mentality that John the Baptist countered (Matthew 3:9). The Pharisees believed they deserved public places of honor at dinners and synagogues (see Matthew 23:6; Luke 20:46). They craved attention and titles of honor such as “Rabbi” (Matthew 23:7; Mark 12:38).

Jesus is our model in not giving in to a sense of entitlement:

“Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6–8, NLT).

Entitlement in the workplace is a disease. 

Successful businesses model the command by Jesus to be a servant to all.  Small business owners and entrepreneurs need to lead by example and rid their workplace of the entitlement culture.