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Entitlement or just bargaining?

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As a nation, we’re less suffering from an epidemic of entitlement, let alone generational entitlement, than from a surplus of blame-shifting. As suggested in this space a couple of weeks ago (“Equivalencytown, 6/27/2022), the Embedded Technology Generation (ETG, aka Generation Z, Digital Natives, and the iGeneration), aren’t so much entitled as they are better negotiators than their predecessors.

If we’re going to take a group and stereotype it as entitled, we all might benefit by buying a mirror, because business managers, as a group, might deserve the term more than the generational cohorts they manage or aspire to managing.

Entitled managers think they’re entitled (hence the name) to employees who are highly self-motivated, resolve their frictions with other employees without managerial involvement, deal with barriers to getting the job done on their own, cheerfully work unpaid hours … they’re classified as “exempt” … because they’re committed to their department’s success, and accept without complaint annual salary increases less than the rate of inflation because the company standard raise for staff-level employees and front-line supervisors has been set at 2% and there’s nothing to be done about it.

Put another way, the Entitled Manager (sounds like a book title, doesn’t it?) is a problem in recursion: failing to take responsibility for fixing what they complain about.

At its roots, managerial entitlement comes from failing to understand the role leadership plays in managing employees effectively.

Management, as a profession, is the organization as machine. It’s about organizing the work, establishing mechanisms for tracking and control, and dealing with administrivia. As a shopworn metaphor accurately describes the situation, employees are, from the perspective of managing, cogs in the machine.

Leadership, as long-time readers (and especially those enlightened souls who have read Leading IT: <Still> the Toughest Job in the World) know, is about building an organization that succeeds on its own, without the leader’s day-to-day involvement.

Good managers recognize the importance of leading well because it’s leadership that results in individuals and teams bringing their A Game to the party thrown by management every day.

In particular, effective leaders recognize the pernicious effect of treating individuals as stereotyped members of a labeled group.

Stereotyping individuals doesn’t just demotivate the members of the group on which the stereotype is conferred. It demotivates the manager as well.

Because if one of my team members is Generation H (to pick a letter at random), why should I even try to motivate them. It’s hopeless.

Which becomes a vicious feedback loop, where the manager doesn’t try; because the manager doesn’t try the GenH-er doesn’t think the manager cares and so doesn’t make much of an effort either; and because the GenH-er doesn’t make much of an effort the manager doesn’t try. Rinse and repeat.

Bob’s last word: There’s an easy, two-step way to break the stereotyping that causes this vicious cycle. The first step is to get to know people as individuals instead of as members of a group. If you do this you’ll gain an understanding of what they actually want out of their job.

The second is to think of what you now know they want, not as a symptom of their entitled selves, but as the opening salvo of an ongoing negotiation.

The difference: Entitled people think they deserve something. Negotiators understand how to deserve something.

Bob’s sales pitch: Most weeks I root around in my KJR topics cellar, looking for something to write about. It might be something I ran across once upon a time, liked, and decided to share. Other times it’s something that annoyed me enough that I kicked it down my mental basement stairs.

But I’m not such a victim of the Not Invented Here By Me syndrome that I’m closed to subjects other members of the KJR community liked or were annoyed by.

So if there’s something you’ve run across you’d like me to give the KJR treatment to, please don’t hesitate to share it. And when you do let me know if you’d like credit for pointing it out.

You will, that is, be entitled (this is the sales pitch part) to the fame and fortune that comes with it.

Currently running in the CIO Survival Guide:The XaaS trap: ‘Everything as a service’ isn’t anything IT really needs.”

Comments (6)

  • At your ‘suggestion’, I searched for “The Entitled Manager” and got this. It seems appropriate:


  • For the KJR topics cellar: As long-time employees of a company, people observe that they tend to be ‘underappreciated’ by management. They become furniture rather than active participants in growth. Thus, when new projects happen, they get assigned to new people because the old people are left tending to the old projects. New people get the chance to reengineer the system that the old people maintained (in my case, expecting it to be used as a platform for new work). Or new people do not come along, and old people are expected to maintain the old stuff AND take on new work. You get the jist.

  • Entitled managers – perfect descriptor and like everything else related to managing/leading people your column could have been written decades ago (except, of course, for the generation names.)

  • Dear Bob, Isn’t it strange that the people who seem to be most “entitled” are the corporate executives who receive compensation packages that are hundreds of multiples of the earnings of the true workers of the company? These execs frequently get these outrageous bonuses even when the company is not doing well! (Golden parachutes, anyone?)

    • The short answer to your question is, “Yes.”

      The longer answer is, “YES!” And in fact, as a consultant I offer a service we (that’s the Papal “We”) call “We’ll wreck your company for half.”

      I don’t know why no boards of directors have taken us up on it.

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