The age of entitlement: How to manage demanding employees

It's essential that HR leaders get a handle on toxic influences

The age of entitlement: How to manage demanding employees

The mentality of working with an employer for 30 plus years and receiving a gold watch upon retirement are long gone. It is safe to say that most Generation Z and Millennials would be foreign to this mentality. According to October 2021 data from career site CareerBuilder, Gen Z workers spend an average of two years and three months in a role, a reduction on Millennials' average time in a job of two years and nine months. In times of tight employment, an employer can be forced to ‘overpay’ an employee due to the nature of the business and the knowledge that they have accumulated.

“In some cases, you may need to manage them out, especially if they have a detrimental effect on the team or business,” Natasha Hawker, founder and managing director, Employee Matters, said. “A survey conducted by Interact found that 69% of managers are often uncomfortable communicating with employees, and 37% said they’re uncomfortable having to give direct feedback about their employees’ performance if they think the employee might respond negatively to the feedback.

“However, if you are clear in your expectations when it comes to their requests, are consistent in your replies to their demands, set clear expectations, give them continuous and direct feedback, recognise their achievements and be inclusive, you should be able to continue working with them, especially in this period where we find ourselves in a market in short supply of talent.”

The reality is with Generation Z and Millennials changing jobs so frequently, it is going to be almost impossible to manage their expectations. They are the constant lookout for change believing that they are in demand and/or they are worthy of a better company.

“When a seemingly entitled employee is making requests or demands in the workplace, the best course of action is to ask for clarification on the basis for the demand,” Joanne Alilovic, founder of 3D HR Legal, said. “For example, are they seeking to enforce a right in their contract of employment, under a company policy or in accordance with the law? Or is the request based on personal circumstances? Once this is known, and the company has a clearly defined set of conditions for what needs to exist to justify their demand/request such as a promotion or pay rise, it provides a much clearer basis for a conversation to answer their requests.”

It is not easy for human resources to manage both the employer and employee’s needs, as ultimately the human resources delegate is paid by the company. Managing an employee’s expectations that are simply unrealistic is a difficult task.

“Studies from the Social Psychological and Personality Science Journal showed that ‘entitled people were more likely to ignore instructions even when apparently following those instructions’,” Hawker said.  “It also revealed that ‘entitled individuals’ greater likelihood of ignoring instructions was predicted by their viewing instructions as an unfair demand on them’.

“This means that they need to be managed closely, continuing setting clear expectations and giving them direct and continuous feedback.  Of course, we all know that direct and continuous feedback is the best way to manage the whole team, followed by demonstration of appreciation when things are done.”

This leaves companies in difficult positions as to ensure corporate culture is not totally disrupted while also trying to work out how to either communicate more effectively with the entitled employee or manage them out of the office.

“A truly entitled employee who is demanding without basis could upset your culture and create a bigger issue,” Alilovic added. “However, people can change. The company needs to take responsibility for setting clear expectations around performance, criteria for promotions/pay rises and so forth, along with the value that the company places on equitable treatment amongst employees. If despite bringing these things to an employee’s attention they continue to make unacceptable demands which affects the team and business, then their behaviour needs to be addressed via appropriate counselling and warnings.”

As the talent shortage increases, perhaps the solution lies in looking outside Generation Z and Millennials and employing older, more reliable employees who will also add to the culture of the organisation by sharing life experiences too.

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