Those of us working in management and leadership are, on the whole, a privileged group. We work in physically comfortable environments. Our jobs are, in the global scheme of things, well paid. We have authority and influence over others.
But privilege, or the anticipation of privilege, can foster an ugly attitude, one that can hold back both our work and our careers. It’s an attitude of entitlement.
But of course the world owes me!
Seeing privileged people with an attitude of entitlement, an expectation that they will get their way just because of who they are, is nothing new. It’s a feature of any elite. Those born to privilege have always expected good treatment and to get what they want, simply because that has been the reality of their world. The wealthy also tend to expect much from the world, because whatever they feel entitled to they can normally buy. Some even forget where that boundary lies.
But that sense of entitlement is even visible in some people setting out on their careers. Rightly proud of graduating college, they expect a good job and all that comes with it to fall at their feet. Especially among those who have attended prestigious seats of learning, there is an expectation that now the world is all theirs.
It’s an attitude that would be damaging even if it were true.
Holding yourself back
An attitude of entitlement can hold you back in two ways – in how you motivate yourself, and in how you relate to others.
The need to earn your place in the world is a great motivator. The desire to make your mark, to earn the status and the luxuries you want can push you to get past the boring or difficult parts of your work. Because lets be honest, no matter how inspiring your career, no matter how passionately you feel about the path that you’re on, there will be times for the hard slog. Knowing that there’s more to be got out of this than personal satisfaction is part of what sees you through. That’s the basis of our whole economy. If you feel entitled, if you feel that the things that you want will just fall effortlessly into your lap, what’s to get you out of bed on a cold winter’s morning? How will you earn those things?
An attitude of entitlement can also poison your relationship with others, whether colleagues, family or friends. Think how you feel when others just expect you to do what they want, or make demands of you without offering a reason or something in return. Does it make you want to do those favors? Does it make you want to help that person, or to be around them?
Now look at your own behavior and check that you aren’t doing the same thing. Few things damage working relations more than an entitled attitude.
Earning your place
None of this is about putting people down, about teaching them their place. The onus it puts on you is to earn your place, not learn it.
You want to be respected? You want people to listen to you and do as you ask? You want to be a leader in your organization or your field? Then earn it. Put in the hours. Listen to others. Remember that none of us ever stops learning, and that learning is what will propel you forwards.
Graduating school, getting your first job, even working your way up the ladder, these are fine achievements. But keep this simple truth in mind: nobody owes you anything. All you will get is what you earn.