What are we going to do about all these self-centered brats at work? You see them all the time: demanding respect without earning it, seeking praise without lifting a finger, and shirking accountability.

Oh, you thought I was talking about entitled Millennials? Actually, I was referring to all those spoiled bosses running around.

Often as individuals advance to positions of leadership, many develop a sense of entitlement. Think it doesn’t matter? Think again. A growing body of research shows that poor leadership is bad for morale at work:

  • A majority of people are unhappy in corporate jobs (Grow America).
  • 74% of people surveyed would consider finding a different job today (Harris Interactive).
  • 32% of people are actively looking for a different job (Mercer’s “What’s Working” study).
  • 31% admit that they don’t like their boss (Accenture).

Regardless of your position, everything is earned and nothing is given to you. And if you’re the boss, how can you lecture the “entitlement generation” about changing their ways if they see the exact same behaviors coming from you?

If you want your organization to Thrive and not Just Survive, always know that your attitude and behavior set an example for everyone else — and that primary responsibility for ending the “culture of entitlement” in the workplace rests with those in leadership roles.

What Does Entitled Mean?

How do you know the Entitled Leader when you meet them? Psychologist and executive coach Jasbindar Singh says too many folks get seduced by the “position, power, privilege, and perks” of being in charge. She notices that the worst offenders usually lack the self-awareness that they are even acting entitled!

An entitlement attitude is correlated with “…self-serving beliefs and behaviors, narcissistic personalities, and arrogance. Conversely, empathy — the ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes — tends to be low.”

Mark Sanborn, CEO of leadership development firm Sanborn & Associates, Inc., identifies five so-called “entitlement traps” that he’s seen bosses fall into:

  • Expecting respect without giving it: Respect has to be earned and comes from your character and ability, not your position or status in life. Too many bosses demand respect no matter how they treat others.
  • Needing adulation: Constantly seeking unwavering praise will grate on those around you — especially if you withhold appreciation from others.
  • Demanding sacrifice from others: Are you asking employees to take pay cuts without tightening your own belt? Asking them to stay late while you call it a day early?
  • Not showing employees they can trust you: Do you respect people you don’t trust? Enough said.
  • Expecting employees to treat you like a friend: Remember, you want to have a great relationship with your people, but Great Leaders don’t go around expecting their employees to be their best friends.

Over the years, I’ve also observed way too many folks who think that a fancy title means they don’t have to face accountability. Only the “underlings” have to answer for their decisions, while the “boss” gets to do whatever he or she wants and nobody can call them out on it.

How Does Entitled Behavior Hurt the Organization?

What happens when a leader thinks respect is a right, not a privilege to be earned? Here are just a few of the ways an entitled attitude among leadership can hurt your organization:

  • It can hinder the need for change. We all get used to doing things “our” way. This can be especially problematic for the Entitled Leader who gets blinded to internal and external realities — and who thinks they’re always right.
  • It can compromise ethics. An entitled attitude can lead to abuse of power, or make it tempting to do things like use company funds for personal activities. Leaders in this position make excuses like “I work hard, so I earned the right to do this.”
  • It can hurt workplace morale. This is one of the reasons why so many people “hate” their jobs, loathe their bosses, and spend so much time looking over the fence for greener pastures. By the way, remember that as the leader you set an example for everyone else to follow. Don’t like dealing with entitled employees? You can start by eliminating entitled leadership!

How Is the Great Leader Different from the Entitled Leader?

By now you may be asking how you can avoid falling into Sanborn’s “entitlement trap.” Here are some good habits that, in my experience, tend to separate the Great Leaders from the Entitled Leaders.

Brush up on Emotional Intelligence

Learn the skill of self-awareness. Notice when you may be acting from a sense of entitlement instead of a spirit of cooperation and service to your team and clients. Cultivate an ability to manage your emotions, even in times of crisis.

Practice empathy when making decisions and interacting with other people. Be mindful of their thoughts and feelings as well as your own.

Listen More — A Lot More

Remember the old saying, “you have two ears and one mouth for a reason.”

The Entitled Leader thinks they know it all, while the Great Leader has no problem delegating responsibility and leaning on the expertise of trusted team members. Seek out input from others — managers, colleagues, and customers — when making decisions.

Show Gratitude

According to Dr. Robert Emmons, a psychology professor at the University of California-Davis, the entitlement mentality flourishes in the absence of gratitude. Give your people the chance to shine by playing to their strengths, and then offer sincere praise for their accomplishments.

Lead with Actions, not Just Words

Let your team see you getting down in the trenches and doing the same hard work you’re asking them to do. Whenever sacrifices of time or money become necessary, be willing to take on some of the burden yourself instead of casting it all off on other people.

You probably already know that the entitlement mentality is bad for business — but so are bad leadership skills! Ending the so-called “entitlement culture” starts at the top. And remember, when it comes to things like respect, trust, sacrifice, and appreciation, you’ve got to give if you want to receive.

By eliminating the entitlement mentality from your leadership practices, you’ll help your organization — and your people — to Thrive and not Just Survive!