Your Participation Trophy

Do you have employees who want special recognition, increased compensation, or increased freedom without responsibility or results?

One way to describe this perspective is they have an "entitlement mentality."

People complain the millennial generation has been ruined because they received trophies for participation, rather than results. I agree with the criticism.

The outcome of that foolish behavior is a child who never was on a winning team or performed at a top level, but was told she/he was a winner. This develops grownups who think they know more than others and deserve rapid advancement and rewards without significant contribution.

However, we should stop knocking the millennial generation. I have found people with an entitlement mentality across all generations. It is particularly prevalent in union workers today, but not limited to just those types of employees.

A room full of participation trophies, medals, and ribbons is a facade of accomplishment. It is a lie even the most sincere, well-meaning person can embrace without knowing it.

Sadly, I am describing myself.

I earned most of the trophies and awards that I received for participating in my sports activities. However, my parents raised me as the "golden boy." Because I had a natural inclination to work hard plus a sense of right and wrong, they overlooked a lot of my failures. I rarely had serious consequences. Their level of belief in me should have been reserved for a 4.0 student and top athlete.

I was constantly told I could do anything, but not taught how to be my best or held accountable to being my best. The result was inconsistent achievement and an unrealistic view of myself.

The ability to comprehend this issue in my life took years. I came to realize that I had been wounded in my youth, although loved unconditionally.

In a way, I sympathize with millennials and anyone who expects a participation trophy for every small accomplishment.

3 Tips for Managing the Entitlement Mentality

I have three suggestions for you to consider if you have an employee with an entitlement mentality:

FIRST, if you're dealing with a difficult employee, your approach might be the primary problem.

Generational and cultural gaps exist, you need to be able to adapt. You hired the person. You manage them. You are in charge of developing them. Their performance is largely dependent on your guidance.

So, try adjusting your style of management, and take ownership of their performance.

SECOND, before you nag or threaten them, start by learning more about their background (within legal limits). Talk to them, take them out to lunch and ask them about their hobbies.

You can use an assessment to learn about their most intense behaviors and most passionate driving forces. Our MANAGEtoWIN Talent Assessments can help you with the behaviors and the driving forces. That's a major piece of the puzzle, but you still have to talk with people to understand where the person came from, and where they want to grow.

Talk with the employee to better understand their background. As you talk with them, consider how people in your organization can help the employee better connect their values and interests to their work. Figure out how to make the employee feel like their work is meaningful.

Meaningful work is the fuel that drives all significant accomplishment.

THIRD, enforce proper boundaries and expectations.

Is there someone with an entitlement mentality who has been on your team for more than 90 days? That's a problem.

Every employee should understand the boundaries and expectations in their role. You should have an on-boarding plan in place for new employees that spells out exactly what your company standards are and how the employee should meet those standards every day.

You should also have a process in place for dealing with boundary violations. Each time a company standard is not met, the problem should be addressed swiftly and effectively, especially in the first 90 days.

Your team will work more effectively and efficiently when everyone understands and appreciates your boundaries and expectations.