A Tap on the Glass - Vol. 40 - What Are You Entitled To?

Much as we hope it would be otherwise, organizations such as ours can’t stop this world from changing. The very best we can hope for is to adapt. If we’re smart, we change before we have to. The smart or lucky ones (insert your choice) manage to scramble and adjust when push comes to shove. The rest lose…and they become history.

As organizations maneuver in some effort to cope with rapid change, some careers always get caught in the cracks. It’s unfortunate, but completely unavoidable. Some employees get pinched and, naturally, people cry foul. They accuse top management of “breaking the psychological contract,” of changing the rules.

The idea of some sort of “implied contract” between Management and Employee is a little hard to justify in today’s job climate. I think it’s more accurate to say that the organization is just responding to a rule change in the WORLD. The irony in this is that many executives are in a true no-win situation. If they’re a smart one and change early like they need to, they’re described as cold, uncaring and over-reactive. If they try and drag it out and DON’T change until the world forces the issue, they’re considered inept as well as cruel. It’s a no-win situation for somebody, no matter what.

Look at today’s multi-generational workforce. Never has there been such a time in Labor history where so many generations of workers, all with clearly different perspectives on employment, worked together.

I think part of the problem is the “entitlement” mindset that has crept into our thinking over the past couple of decades. People came to believe that, because they had worked at all, no matter how much time they had put in, the organization “owed” them continued employment with benefits, time off whenever they wanted, flexible schedules, sick days, all their IT problems fixed for them, etc., etc., etc. Just showing up every day (usually) – loosely referred to as “loyalty” – was supposed to entitle a person to job security. I actually had an employee once that said “Hey, I came to work! What more do you want?” Seriously? I recall trying to explain to that employee that he didn’t receive income from us for showing up and being there. He was paid for what he did while he was there. He had a hard time understanding the concept and shortly thereafter was encouraged to leave.

Employees EXPECTED, even DEMANDED regular pay increases and periodic promotions. Some folks even went so far as to assume they had a “right” to expect their employer to keep them happy and provide high job satisfaction for them. The burden of responsibility for people’s career’s kept shifting further and further away from the employee and more onto the backs of employers. And the truth is, both sides bought into the system and it’s been bad for everybody.

Too often, employees rested on past achievements, instead of requiring themselves to constantly upgrade their skills. The EXPECTED to have their needs met by their employer when the times arose. They became so dependent on their employers, expecting to be protected and bailed out from whatever storm hit, that they became unable to move forward either in skill set or value to their employer that was struggling to meet their needs!
Well, obviously, it didn’t work. It has no chance of ever working, now.

A lot of jobs have been cut back or completely eliminated . New technology and competition is re-shaping how we work. The marketplace has no mercy and it puts definite limits on how generous and protective an organization can be with its people. Boomers and older have seen this before. In fact, we grew up with it that way.

But Gen X and Gen Y employees aren’t used to that type of marketplace. They grew up with flexible schedules and employers who were just happy to have them working for them. But if not, no big deal! There were PLENTY of jobs out there to choose from. If an employer didn’t give them what they wanted, they just went to another that did. And another. And another. And another.

THAT ship has sailed in this new economy, and I would suspect that we’ll never see it like that again. Americans don’t learn lessons early or easily, but when we do it usually sticks.

It’s time to reframe your relationship with your organization, just as it must reframe their relationship with customers and competitors. Don’t fall into the trap of assuming that you’re automatically “entitled” to pay increases, promotions, or even a job! Circumstances will keep changing over the next several years. The best thing you can do is constantly upgrade your skills, stay flexible and never ever con yourself into thinking that your employer is “supposed” to protect your future. You have a tough schedule? That’s what the job calls for. You want more time off than your company can give? Adjust YOUR schedule. Don’t expect the company to bend to your whims. They don’t have to. Remember, you are not paid to show up for work everyday. You’re paid for what you do WHILE at work everyday.

The era of entitlement is ended. Instead of relying on your “rights”, take some personal responsibility for your career. Put some faith in the future and put more in yourself.

Embrace the change and develop the work habits you’ll need for job success in this new age.

“Don't feel entitled to anything you don't sweat and struggle for.”

Marian Wright Edelman (1939 – )
American Activist
Founder of the Children's Defense Fund

Thanks for reading.