A friend of mine has a wonderful way of describing people who are off-the-scale demanding; the type who always seem to “think it’s unfair and want, want, want”.

She’ll say they suffer from entitle-itis, and I think it’s spot-on with describing some people in the workplace. It applies to both employers and employees. I have found that it doesn’t relate to any specific generation, it’s just about their personality.

Employees with entitle-itis want everything now and on their terms. They demonstrate selfish behaviour and believe they have been treated unfairly. “I want” and “It’s not fair” are common features when they speak. They are generally unwilling to help others on the team and refuse to do something that is not in their job description. They rarely acknowledge what their employer does for them. Thank you is not in their vocabulary.

How do you begin to deal with an employee like this?

  • Set clear expectations with regard to what you expect in the workplace – both values and job outcomes.
  • Role-model the workplace values and behaviours.
  • Resist the urge to enable – giving in to such employees because it’s easier than dealing with their behaviour only enables them.
  • Don’t give the employee air time – address what genuinely needs addressing but close down the entitle-itis rhetoric.
  • Be brave – when enough is enough (and preferably before it’s too late), draw a line in the sand and start the formal process of dealing with the behaviour. If you don’t address the behaviour, it impacts on the rest of your team – productivity drops, absences increase, good staff leave.

If you’re recruiting, look out for candidates who are inflexible when arranging an interview; listen to what they say about their previous employers and colleagues during the interview; and when you are reference checking, ask the referee about the candidate’s sense of team play. If your alarm bells are going off, don’t hire them!

We do understand that it’s not always the employee with entitle-itis; employers can fall into the entitle-itis category too. They’ll likely be experiencing high turnover, poor team engagement and low productivity amongst their team. We’ll leave this group of employers for the leadership experts to manage.

No one ever said managing a team was easy. It takes work. If you have a burning question about managing your team give us a call. Sometimes a simple chat over the phone can help move things in the right direction.