Handling an “Entitlement” Mentality
Q. My question is about the now generation of kids that are potential candidates for sales positions, or already on your sales staff. They think they deserve it all now, and are not willing to work hard for their pay. How do you deal with this type of person when you are interviewing them or if they are already on your sales staff?
A. I have some conflicting thoughts on this one. On one hand, I’ve noticed that every generation thinks the younger generation is less responsible, less level-headed, and lazier than they were. So, it could be that you are just reflecting what is an age-old tendency.
On the other hand, it certainly seems like many of the younger people just now entering the work force are bringing with them an “entitlement” mentality. It’s easy enough to understand. We have witnessed the degradation of cultural ‘work ethic’ in our media, and in our educational and political systems over the past 40 years. We have changed from a society that emphasized personal responsibility and individual opportunity, to one that emphasizes rights and entitlements.
But this is a sales Ezine, not a political blog, so I’ll forswear my opinions on the current class of journalists, politicians and educators and focus on your question.
While the cultural establishment in this country promotes an entitlement attitude, that doesn’t mean that every one has bought into it. The impact of the family on a young person is often far deeper than that of the culture. That means that there are out there somewhere a number of young candidates for your openings who, in spite of the preponderance of messages from the culture, have a sense of responsibility, an ethic of hard work and integrity, and an understanding of the need to pay your own way and prove your value to your employer.
And, we can still hire who we choose to, at least for the time being. So, for those who you are interviewing, the answer is easy: Don’t hire them. Don’t make the classic employer’s mistake – thinking that you can change their attitude or their character after they come to work for you. While you can give them skills, train them in the best practices, and help them develop effective strategy and disciplines, you cannot change their character. And character will eventually evidence itself in that person’s results. Hire character. Not education, not skills, not experience, not knowledge. You can give them all those things. Hire character.
Those who currently work for you are a different and larger problem. While their attitude and mindset may be an irritant and personally offensive to you, it probably is not the biggest business problem. The business problem is that their results are not up to expectations. You know, and I know, that the reason for the mediocre results is a lack of substantial character. But, you can’t manage character, you must manage the results.
So, set aside your personal distaste for the attitude, and focus on the results. Create clear, specific measurable expectations for performance with definite deadlines. Clearly communicate those expectations and make sure your employee understands the rewards of meeting them and consequences of not.
Make it a performance issue, not an attitude issue.
Some percentage of your questionable employees will do what you would like them to do. In so doing, they’ll probably take a deep breath, figure out that their results are their own responsibility, and buff off some of the burrs in their attitude. In other words, they’ll grow up.
But, alas, not all of them will. And for those who don’t meet your expectations, who don’t produce the results you want, help them find a more tolerant employer.
For those sales people who are reading this, recognize that this conversation may, to some degree, be about you. It may prompt a little introspection. This may be a good opportunity to assess where you are at on the “entitlement” to “personal responsibility” spectrum, and, if applicable, decide to work on improving your self.
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