Is Your Sense of Entitlement Ruining Your Career?

Last Updated Jul 22, 2011 1:32 AM EDT

There are three things you need to have or be to be successful in your chosen career.
  1. A good relationship with your superiors. You're not going to get good assignments, promotions, or praise unless you can maintain a good relationship with your boss and your boss's boss and your boss's peers.
  2. A good relationship with your peers. Most of the business world is a team sport, and you need the support of your coworkers to be successful. Sure, there are times when you'll be the favored child and your coworkers will resent you as you climb the ladder, but your time at work will be miserable.
  3. A top performer. Even though we've all encountered stupid people in high positions, your best chance of success is to actually be good at what you do. And not just good, better than other people. You can't just meet expectations, you need to exceed them.
A problem many people are facing is that they feel entitled to the love and favor of their superiors and peers, and that if they bother to show up to work and do the bare minimum, they should be promoted. This sense of entitlement can have a detrimental effect on your career.

For example, I stumbled upon a discussion amongst female doctors who complained that their male colleagues were showered with congratulations when a new baby was on the way, but that their pregnancies were met with mumbled congratulations and moans about the extra work that meant for them. They called this a "double standard." One commenter writes:

The issue is this: When someone tells you they're pregnant, your first out loud response should not be, "How will this affect ME???" It should be congratulations! I am so happy for you! Period. Details can be worked out later as necessary. It's not sexism, it's selfishness.
What they are missing is that their colleagues who now have to take on their work see the pregnancy as being selfish. Sure, it's polite to congratulate your colleague on a pregnancy, but you're not entitled to congratulations. If you build resentment over the interaction--whether their lack of congratulations is rude or not--your relationship will suffer precisely at the time when you need extra help.

Another entitlement popped up in a discussion of inflated academic grading. BNET reader, Rachaelmarquard wrote:

If a professor says "write a paper that accomplishes A, B, and C and use at least 5 sources, (and of course use proper citations, grammar, etc)" and you do that, you should get an A.
If she believes that she's entitled to an A (or the work equivalent of an exceeds expectation performance appraisal) for doing the bare minimum, she's going to find out that her career stalls out rather quickly. Businesses reward those that bring real value to an organization. Showing up and doing exactly what is written on a your job description, entitles you to an agreed upon paycheck. It does not entitle you to rewards and recognition. You're not entitled to that.

My BNET colleague, Laurie Tarkan, asked the question, "Should Obese People Be Protected Against Discrimination?" She points out:

Eugene Kutcher and Jennifer Bragger wrote in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, "--research has shown that overweight job applicants are viewed as possessing negative job related traits, such as laziness, lack of self-discipline, greediness, selfishness, and carelessness."
Are you entitled to be treated differently, when your weight (unlike race or age) is something that you can control? (Yes, there is a very small percentage of people who have genuine medical reasons for being overweight, but the vast majority of people could lose weight if they changed their eating and exercise habits). Are you entitled to other people having a positive opinion of you?

Even if, morally, you should be entitled to congratulations, praise and jobs regardless of appearance, sitting back and expecting this will prohibit you from succeeding in your career. It's nice to talk about an ideal world where we're all judged on our work performance, but we have to live in the world that exists. And in this world, if your expectation that your 100 extra pounds entitles you to be a protected class, you're going to be miserable when you don't receive it. Plus, you're ignoring a very real problem that you could correct if you wanted too.

Being "entitled" to be treated differently than you are being treated can absolutely ruin your career. You must deal with the reality that exists. And in that reality, coworkers don't appreciate others' long leaves of absence, bosses don't reward bare minimum performance, and your appearance affects how others perceive you.

It doesn't really matter if such perceptions are "right" or "fair." It matters that they are the reality we face. If you feel entitled to anything other than reality, you're damaging your own career.

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Photo by Clearly Ambiguous, Flickr cc 2.0