I have recently developed a heightened awareness of the overblown sense of professional self-worth among youngsters (the 18-30 age group). This sense of entitlement — the assumption that they should get more money, have more responsibility, move to a bigger office, or be given a loftier title — is especially prevalent in retail, restaurants, and other businesses that rely on a young workforce. But this attitude is also in evidence in other industries and throughout the corporate world.
The most recent experience to bring this phenomenon to light was with a young man who is working for a company with which I’m doing consulting work. He has no prior experience in his position, but believes he should be a director and have his own office. He demands in emails to me that I get back to him on his issues and give him my deadlines as to when I will accomplish my tasks. His business manner is not suited to his position within the company and his professional expectations are out of line with his skills and experience.
I’m a big believer in recognizing talent, but I’m also a realist when it comes to running a business. And this demanding employee will be getting a lesson as to how business works and how you don’t get something for nothing.
Previous generations expected to work hard, and we persevered, and we knew that you had to prove yourself first to get rewarded. It doesn’t work the other way around. Yet these youngsters believe they should get rewarded without having to prove themselves.
What, then, is the best management approach to this segment of the workforce — one that we need in all our businesses, but that can also present such challenges to a generation accustomed to a different worth ethic?
THE REAL WORLD RETAILING TAKEAWAY
It’s about them playing for pay, not about you paying for play. They have to do the work and excel in order to get a raise. It’s not about you giving them a raise and then them working harder. It’s that whole entitlement thing.
For business owners, especially in retail, I’ve seen way too many employees hold employers hostage. “Pay me more or I’m quitting” is a common phrase uttered in stores everywhere.
Let them quit. Don’t let employees get the upper hand. Employees who demand more money without first wanting to prove themselves aren’t worth having on the team.
When you’re faced with the situation, do the following:
Understand why the employee is asking for more money. Do they deserve it because they’re an extraordinary employee? Or are they holding you hostage because they can go to another store and make more money? Ask them.
Set an action plan for the employee. If the employee is someone you value, then set up an action plan that allows the employee to make more money while allowing you to ensure the employee accomplishes what you need him or her to accomplish. What additional responsibilities would you like them to take off your plate? Are there specific sales goals you’d like to achieve? Can they oversee the process to properly open and close the store? There are a million daily tasks or special projects you can have them do to lessen your burden of running the business. Set an action of plan of what they need to do and how they will be measured, and then a set a date for a performance review. You’ll give them a raise provided they meet the goals.
Draw the line. Certain employees will ask and ask and ask and ask. If you give in once, then they have the upper hand. So don’t give in. Ever. Make sure any deal is fair and equitable, and works in line with your best interests as a business owner. Sometimes, when employees continue to ask, you need to shut them down. It’s the only way they’ll truly understand that no means no. And an employee who continually demands more isn’t worth having on the team as they only breed discontent among other employees — they poison other employees and before you know it, you have a mutiny on your hands. I’ve seen it happen too many times.
The intent here isn’t to paint this type of employee as the “bad person” but simply to offer some suggestions on how to deal with that employee who always feels entitled. We’ll all come across one or more of them in our careers, so we need to know how to deal with them.