Navigating Entitlement in the Workplace

February 12, 2024

Employees are such lazy bastards and that mongrel boss really needs to get a reality check. It’s a common scenario across many industries, possibly every industry. 

Employees are thought of as spoiled, arrogant, presumptive, absorbed in self-importance with a privileged attitude and unjustified expectations and demands for their toil. 

Employers are considered narcissists (ok some are), arrogant, demanding, imperious, high-handed and think that they are doing their employees a favour by giving them work as if it is a privilege for their staff to work for them. 

OK that’s a pretty toxic environment and still it is one that, at different levels, permeates business of all kinds and sizes across the world.

At the root of all of this is simply one thing - namely entitlement instead of empowerment.

Entitlement erodes the fabric of collaboration and mutual respect, challenging leaders and employees alike.  What is required is a culture of accountability and empowerment. Leadership actions and employee behaviours need to work in tandem to cultivate an environment rooted in value, respect, and shared success.

For owners and leaders, the path forward involves nurturing a culture rich in gratitude and empowerment. This  can be achieved by embracing innovative approaches like elements or all of the Total QX framework. 

For employees it means stepping up, being accountable and being or at least thinking like a boss.

Traditional Approaches for Employers

Real empowerment will not be achieved through traditional methods that have been espoused for years. Traditional, or "old school," strategies typically encompass:

Lead by Example

Demonstrate gratitude in daily interactions. Recognise efforts publicly and appreciate the small wins as much as the big ones. This sets a tone for a positive work environment and encourages employees to mirror these attitudes.

Establish Clear Expectations

Clearly define roles, responsibilities, and the impact of each position. When employees understand their contribution to the larger vision, it fosters a sense of ownership and accountability.

Promote Open Dialogue

Encourage feedback and open lines of communication. Create forums for sharing ideas and challenges, making it clear that every voice is valued and every concern is taken seriously.

Facilitate Professional Growth

Invest in training and development opportunities that empower employees to take charge of their growth. This enhances self-reliance and aligns personal achievements with organisational goals.


OK. So if the yawn-fest is over, stick around a little bit longer, but not before we evoke a little more yawning …

As said for employees it means owning your shit, stepping up embracing accountability and self-reliance, and embracing the mindset of a boss. 

Certainly, many businesses and their owners might initially recoil at the notion of granting employees a degree of self-reliance, fearing it could lead to a lack of control. However, the truth is that autonomy is frequently given, albeit in a tightly regulated manner, with stringent guidelines to ensure focus and direction. I’m simply advocating for a much bigger game. 

Wait a moment longer to hear what I suggest instead of the following employee yawn-fest. 

Traditional Approaches for Employees

So employees are traditionally told to:

Acknowledge Your Role

Understand and embrace the impact of your work. Recognise that your contributions matter and take responsibility for your tasks and outcomes.

Seek Feedback Actively

Don’t wait for feedback; ask for it. Show a willingness to learn and adapt, which reflects humility and the desire to grow.

Practice Generosity

Share knowledge and resources with colleagues. This builds a supportive network and counters entitlement by fostering a culture of giving rather than taking.

Take Initiative

Don’t shy away from challenges. View them as opportunities to contribute to the team’s success and to your personal development. This proactive approach is considered a cornerstone of self-reliance and innovation.

Yada yada yada!

In truth, there's nothing inherently flawed with these approaches. For those encountering these concepts for the first time, they likely appear quite insightful and innovative.

The Bottom Line

Here’s the bottom line of all of the above and more. Employers, you can’t expect your staff to keep giving your clients exceptional experiences when you couldn’t give a shit how they experience the same interaction/transaction.

… and employees, you cannot expect your employer to give a shit about you if your mindset is “it’s a job!”. So fucking what if you are studying to be an Astrophysicist and working your way through uni (college). Your employer is not a halfway house. Your employer is an important milestone on your journey. Kudos that you don’t sit on your ass sucking on the toxic teet of the welfare state like many others, just don’t expect a medal for being a decent human being. It’s the price of entry.

What Employers Need To Do

Building on the understanding that all of the traditional approaches are already a part of standard operating procedures, employers can further enhance their workplace by implementing the following strategies:

Employee Psychographics

Start by understanding the psychographics of your employees. Psychographics for employment have been around for a while, they just haven’t hit full mainstream yet and remain in the too much, too hard, too ‘whatever excuse you want because I can use that to hide the fact I am not really interested’ basket for the greater majority of employers.

Right person in the right place

Use the information for hiring to begin with and then only hire when there is a match between the requirement and the person sitting in front of you. When people are already employed, and by doing the transformative work after which you discover an employee is not a good match for the role in which you have them, it can present challenges. 

Here’s what you do. Explore other opportunities in your organisation for them to contribute and add value. When their interests and values align with the role responsibilities they will shine and in turn make you shine. Role responsibilities will fly out the window and accountability will kick in. If you don’t get that, ask me.  Smaller organisations may find this a huge challenge. 

If nothing can be found, actively help them find other employment that is suited to them within your network. You will be doing both the employee and the other company a favour and you mitigate the cost of laying someone off. Also energetically this will work better for you and your business as you become known for excellence, seeking excellence and being excellence in everything that you do, even in difficult circumstances like having to let someone go.

Ownership and accountability

Encourage your people to make choices and be accountable rather than simply accepting responsibility within their role and making decisions.. What’s the difference?

Decision vs. Choice:

  • Decision-making involves consideration followed by selecting an option from a set of alternatives. When people make decisions, they are often considering external factors, constraints, and possible outcomes. The focus is on the process of selection based on consideration and the decision is reached with one or multiple reasons to support it.
  • Choice-making goes beyond merely selecting an option. There is still consideration up-front however when a choice is made it is independent of the consideration. It is no longer one of several options, it is simply a choice that is made void of any reasons. Making a choice involves a commitment to the outcomes of that option. With choice comes a deeper personal investment and an acceptance of the consequences that follow.

Responsibility vs. Accountability:

  • Responsibility entails being assigned a duty or task either by others, or by themselves because of a decision they make. Someone who is responsible may indeed intend to fulfil their obligations, but there's a possibility of not following through due to various reasons or excuses. It's possible to be responsible without being fully committed to the outcome.
  • Accountability is a higher level of commitment. It means accepting tasks or duties and owning the outcomes of those choices, without excuses. Being accountable implies a personal stake in the success or failure of an endeavour and accepting full ownership of the results. When you make a choice, there are no reasons that it can go wrong or not be completed, you accept accountability for the outcome, absent of reason.

If you want significant results and progress, empower people to take ownership and be accountable.

Expand acknowledgement

Recognizing individual differences is key. Some employees prefer private praise, while others value public recognition. Thus, incorporating both into standard operating procedures still has its place. Rather than traditional accolades like Employee of the Month photos, certificates, or plaques, or some other two-bob trinket (which can and do feel impersonal and formulaic) shift towards more meaningful experiential rewards. Obviously it's important to align the reward's value with the achievement's significance. 

When designing recognition, consider these three possibilities:

Personal Relevance

Tailor the recognition to the employee's personal interests and values, ensuring the gesture reflects their uniqueness rather than the company's generosity.

Family Inclusion

Explore ways to involve or centre the recognition around their family, adding a personal dimension that acknowledges the support system behind the employee's success.

Empowered Choice

Offer employees a budget to design their own reward, providing autonomy and ensuring the recognition genuinely resonates with their preferences and desires.

This approach will personalise the acknowledgment and foster a deeper sense of appreciation and connection between the employee, their family, and the organisation.

What Employees Need To Do

Employees, what you can do is understand your real value and discover how to align what is important to you with the organisational goals of your employer, and then do it.

Leverage Self-Knowledge

If you’ve never done any personal development work, do it. Use your personal insights to understand your own motivations, preferences, and work style. This self-awareness can guide you in aligning your role and contributions with your core values and strengths.

Seek the Right Fit

Actively pursue roles that align with your personal values and way of being. Within your current employment, take the initiative to demonstrate how your unique skills and interests meet the organisation's needs. Should you find yourself in a role that doesn't align with your abilities or aspirations, initiate discussions with your leaders to explore opportunities within the organisation that may be a better fit. In instances where a suitable internal role cannot be found, and the misalignment persists, consider asking your leaders if they are aware of any opportunities in their wider network that might align more closely with your profile. This approach facilitates your professional growth and ensures you are contributing to an environment that resonates with your values and professional goals.

As you prepare to transition out of your current role, leverage your intimate knowledge of the organisation to recommend potential successors who would be an optimal fit. Traditionally, recommendations from departing employees have been viewed with scepticism, under the assumption that outgoing staff might suggest less capable candidates to ensure their own legacy remains untarnished. However, embracing the overall mindset I advocate transforms this practice. By recommending genuinely qualified individuals, your referral becomes a valuable inside track—a trusted endorsement. When your recommended hire proves successful, you not only facilitate a smoother transition but also save your (former) employer the significant costs and resources typically associated with recruiting new staff. This approach reflects a forward-thinking and organizationally beneficial perspective, reinforcing the importance of integrity and mutual success in professional departures.

Ownership and Accountability in Your Role

Make Informed Choices

Understand the distinction between making decisions and making choices. Engage in choice-making with a full commitment to the outcomes, recognizing that this involves a deeper level of personal investment and accountability.

Take Ownership of Your Actions

Cultivate a mindset of accountability, where you own the outcomes of your choices without excuses. This level of commitment enhances your contribution to the organisation and personal growth.

Take the Initiative with Innovation - Go Beyond the Ideas Box

As an employee, actively engage in thinking about ways to improve the business. This involves observing current processes, identifying potential areas for enhancement, and conceptualising innovative solutions that could lead to better efficiency, increased customer satisfaction, or enhanced product quality. This is more than dropping an idea in the idea box. Formulate a solid proposal and approach the owner or leader with your ideas, clearly outlining the benefits, the required resources, and a proposed budget for execution. Demonstrating initiative in this way will further showcase your commitment to the organisation's success and position you as a proactive and valuable team member. Seeking permission and resources to implement your ideas can lead to meaningful changes that benefit the entire organisation, fostering a culture of continuous improvement and innovation.

As an employee, embracing these enhances your own professional experience and contributes to a positive, empowering workplace culture. By understanding your value, taking ownership of your role, and engaging meaningfully with the business and colleagues you play a pivotal role in the collective success and culture of your organisation which serves you personally immediately in terms of job satisfaction and being happy with your choices, as well as in future when you move onto the next leg of your journey.

A Shared Journey Toward Excellence

This is neither a one way street nor a ‘I’ll move when you move’ scenario. Either party can initiate the transformation although it works best when the employer has a genuine interest from the outset and initiates it. Overcoming entitlement in the workplace requires a concerted effort from both leaders and employees. By embedding principles of gratitude, accountability, humility, and self-reliance into every aspect of our work, we can transform challenges into opportunities for growth and sustaining healthy viable businesses. My goal is to guide organisations through this journey, leveraging insights from frameworks like Total QX to build environments where everyone feels valued, empowered, and committed to excellence. Together, we can create a workplace that achieves its goals and elevates the well-being and potential of every individual involved.


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This article is also on the newsletter ready for you to explore the important challenge of ingredient cost management. Essential for every hospitality business, mastering this skill can be the difference between red or black on the operations P&L in a competitive market. The subject interconnects with so many areas of operations and profitability, both directly and indirectly; too many to cover in this article. In this article we’ll look at strategies and insights that will empower you to optimise costs without compromising on the quality your customers expect. Dive in for a straightforward guide to turning this aspect of your operations into a strategic advantage.
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Paul J Lange

Paul J. Lange

Executive & Business Coach | Food & Hospitality Industry | Entrepreneur & Investor | Unreasonable Unorthodox | Helping business to grow & scale for 35+ years. Creator of the Total QX Framework for Business Optimisation

Paul Lange is an internationally experienced management consultant, business trainer, and exceptional business coach, with over 35 years in the Private Equity/Venture Capital Industry. Known for his unorthodox yet highly effective methods, Paul stands out in a field where innovation and results are paramount.

Paul’s journey in the world of business is deeply rooted in the hospitality sector, where his career began. From his first two jobs in the industry to establishing his inaugural business venture, Paul’s foundational experiences in hospitality have profoundly shaped his understanding of service excellence and workforce dynamics. His continuous connection to the food/hospitality and other industries, through investments, coaching, and international consulting, coupled with his role in developing innovative staff training programs, underscores his comprehensive expertise in this vibrant field.

Paul has a passion for business optimisation and has developed the Total QX (Total Quality Experience) framework, which emphasises the human aspect in business excellence. His approach blends the pursuit of pleasure, passion, and purpose with profit generation, a philosophy he embodies as the Hedonist Entrepreneur.

Paul’s professional journey is marked by his deep commitment to creating transformative business strategies. His Total QX framework, emphasising quality and experience, is at the forefront of his consulting approach. This framework is more than a business model; it’s a reflection of Paul’s belief in integrating pleasure and passion into the fabric of business, thereby enhancing both personal fulfilment and corporate success. If you’re seeking to elevate your business with innovative strategies and a human-centric approach, Paul’s expertise offers an unparalleled opportunity. He welcomes conversations with like-minded professionals and businesses aspiring to blend profitability with purpose and passion.
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