Sense of Entitlement: The Younger Generations Are Getting a Bad Rap

For the first time in history, we have 4 generations in the workforce at the same time. Naturally, this much diversity requires adjustments and understanding. While it’s convenient to bucket groups by age, some of the generalizations are not helpful.  Generation X  and Generation Y are generally identified as arriving at the workplace with a sense of entitlement as big as the great outdoors.  I disagree with singling them out for this unattractive character trait.  I see entitlement rearing its ugly head in every generation.  It just sounds different depending on who’s speaking.  And businesses react differently according to the age of the speaker.  That’s the worst part.

Here’s what entitlement looks and sounds like across the generations.

Born between 1928-1945
I’ve done my time. I deserve a senior position based solely on my years in the workforce. I hire good people and let them do their jobs on their own. I don’t measure them and I certainly do not set stretch goals for them. You should treat me the same way.

Born between 1946-1964
I put in extra hours therefore I am not subject to the same rules as everyone else. If I work hard, I’ll get everything I want — whether my expectations are reasonable or not.

Generation X
Born between 1965-1979
I saw my parents work hard yet they still got laid off so I want what’s due to me now. I’m not looking for equal treatment, I’m looking for special treatment.

Generation Y
Born between 1980-1995
I have no interest in doing menial chores that could be automated. You can have someone else do that for me.   If I have to get good at what I do before I get promoted I’ll just work for someone else. Give it to me now or I’m moving on.

Of course, not everyone exhibits this unproductive trait.  There are workers and leaders in each of the generations who honestly want to produce quality, measurable results, and they want to be recognized for such.  And there are workers and leaders in each of the generations who work hard at getting better at what they do every day.  Taking the time to get to know the unique skills and perspective offered by a multi-generational workforce can lead to an enriched workplace.

Is entitlement creeping into your speech?  How would you deal with it in your business?


8 Replies to “Sense of Entitlement: The Younger Generations Are Getting a Bad Rap”

  1. In spite of our best efforts to screen intern applicants for our learning-in-action opportunities, we continue to be caught off guard to the point of feeling blind-sided by the needs and expectations of these children inside adult-sized bodies. I used to be biased toward applicants over age 28 (theoretically the brain is fully-formed); now I’ll only follow up with applicants who claim to have conceived, tested and implemented an ongoing collaborative effort over a year or more. We’re offering to mentor potential, but having seven adult children between the two of us (four still trying to figure something out for themselves) we don’t find a natural compassion arising in response to the recurring incompetencies and incapacties that come with entitlement-expectation patterns.

    Last month I dismissed two interns during their two-week trials, which triggered an ‘exodus’ by a remaining intern and two newly-arrived year-long stipend-supported volunteers. Their departure was without warning, and one of them literally spit and spewed her recriminations, blaming us for her failures and unconfirmed assumptions. That was two weeks ago and I still feel sad and angry, but hopeful to learn what’s here for me. Where is an on-line learning-community we can turn to for tools and skills to develop our discernment and collective wisdom with respect to this?


  2. By the time members of the current ‘entitlement generation’ reach the age of twenty they’ve already had 5-6 jobs. If they don’t like a job they’ll simply leave. The urgency to work isn’t what it used to be, especially for a young generation. There are many problems that will become apparent with the current generation… I addressed one related to creativity in a recent blog post: The Near Fatal Stabbing of Imagination


    1. Andrew,

      It will be interesting to see how things play out over the next 10-15 years. Gen Y will need to adjust as they come to grips with a workplace that is not as entertaining or visually stimulating as the video games and television sound bytes they were raised on. I appreciate the dark humour with which you’ve taken on a very serious subject – the death of creativity. I’m sending my best wishes to creativity. May he/she recover fully. (readers will have to follow your link to understand)

      Appreciate your taking the time to comment.


      1. This morning when I had googled “The Entitlement Generation”, I started singing to myself the song What’s A Matter With Kids Today which was written when I was a child, and thinking that every future generation has it’s issues. I am not exactly sure where we went wrong with our younger generation, but I do think that we all need to understand that the old saying that a community raises a child should be more evident to us. I look back as to what was different in the 80’s and early 90’s as opposed to the 50’s and 60’s and I have come up with a few things that may have caused an impact. I couldn’t help but think back to video games, and then computers. We all wanted our children to keep up with the latest technology thinking that it would help them in their future. We witnessed technology growing so fast and our ignorance as to how it all worked, that we could not leave our child behind, and thank goodness we didn’t, look at it now. I don’t think that we had realized what we were doing. Watching our children, we all were impressed how well they could press buttons. We were creating children with the mindset that if you play a game and start to lose, just click a button and you have a do over. Not to mention that we were giving our children gifts that had cost most of us a full weeks paycheck, and that’s just one child.
        The education system was changing as well. I could not understand the amount of homework our children were taking home, which also required a lot of parent participation. I remember one time my son coming home from school and saying “Mom you have to help me with my homework, my teacher said so”. The interaction with a child was not a bad thing per say, but I think it went overboard, and put the work achievement and responsibility on a students parents and not on themselves. If you think back did it contribute to higher education? Did your kids receive higher grades than you did in school or did they become any smarter? Our parent participation also taught them that we were going to be there to fight their battles. We all went with the flow.
        We have a hard time working together at our place of employment that now consists of a few generations all working together. No longer is the work environment a place that you go to produce and get compensated. Now it is a place where we can earn employee of the month awards, parking spaces, and badges on our uniforms like Cub Scouts. It’s a continuation of their schooling and upbringing. Possibly we overpraised them if there is such a thing. The problem is that we forgot to teach them to praise back, so now we call them “The Entitlement Generation”.


        1. Roseann,

          Thank you for taking the time to share your observations. I especially appreciated the point you made about teaching them to praise back. That one element could move any of us away from entitlement and toward productive, healthy work relationships.



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