Entitlement issues are rampant in family owned dealerships. It is a stealthy and dangerous disease that can have a widespread and prolific impact on our business culture, as well as at home. How do we keep it from becoming an epidemic in our business and family lives?
First, you must understand exactly what entitlement means. The simple translation is when a person believes they are special and deserve to be treated different (better) than everyone else. Or perhaps that they are “deserving”. Merriam-Webster’s actual definitions, although close, are a bit less selfish intending:
- 1a. the state or condition of being entitled
- 1b. a right to benefits specified especially by law or contract
- 2. a government program providing benefits to members of a specified group; also: funds supporting or distributed by such a program
- 3. belief that one is deserving of or entitled to certain privileges.
And there it is, that last definition in Merriam-Websters, a belief that one is deserving of or entitled to.. But what is it that makes someone feel entitled? How do you deal with it? What does it look like in my dealership? Let me share with you an example. A dealer is considering revising the vacation and personal time off policies, that have worked for years in the business. The existing company policy which has applied to all employees is pretty straight forward. Employees shall receive one week of paid time off after one year of employment, two weeks after five years of employment and three weeks for those with 15 years or more of employment.
“Once we have developed an appropriate attitude of acceptance and compassion, we can truly approach other entitled people around us from a stance of being “for them” – for their growth and change.”
The policy, working well for this organization for a long time, now creates conflict with the owner’s children. Now that they are involved in the business, the owner is considering creating a family specific time off policy. Specifically, one week immediately upon hire, two weeks after one year, and the freedom to go on vacation with the parents, amounting to at least 3 weeks of vacation after one year, when everyone else has to put in 15 years for the same privilege. In other words, because these children are the offspring of the business owner, they have a different set of policies that apply to them.
We all struggle with entitlement.
I’m at the airport and my flight is cancelled due to a maintenance issue and I get angry with the gate attendant – I am after all a frequent flyer – surely they should just bring me another plane! I am at the grocery store and the clerk is carrying on a conversation with the person bagging my groceries, seeming to not care about how fast or slow they are going and all the while I am tapping my foot, impatient. Or maybe I’m at the counter at the parts department at the car dealership to get something I need and the counterperson takes a phone call, putting that caller ahead of me, and makes me wait.
Applying this to business, there is the business owner who recently objected to transferring the business to his 50+ year-old child that’s running it because his lifestyle ‘burn rate’ requires that he maintain his ownership stake. Or, the sibling that recently asked about his brother/business partner, “I’m doing all the work, why should he get ½ the profits?” and his brother’s response “I’m carrying the relationship with our two biggest clients, why should I have to go out and generate new business?”
The list could go on and on and on. It’s as if people do not understand the parameters regarding how they should act in relation to others. Their individual rights trump all with no regard for the rights of others. There is no doubt that entitlement is an insidious disease that pervades and is supported by the culture we live in. But our right to do whatever we deem appropriate ends at the point where it impacts others.
So, what do we do about this entitlement epidemic? If you, as a business owner, or a family member or non-family manager/employee, are in an environment where you see this entitlement attitude and you don’t know what to do about it, first let’s take the plank out of our own eye and do some self-evaluation before we examine the speck in someone else’s eye.
When we are addressing our own entitlement challenges, then and only then, are we in a position to effectively help others who are entitled, who may not have any awareness of it. I say this because the desire is usually to create change in those that have entitlement. And change only occurs in an environment of acceptance and in the presence of compassion. You cannot display acceptance and compassion and at the same time be judgmental and condemning, as if you have it all together (that’s entitlement – “I have it all together, therefore I’m special and deserve to be treated differently” – and arrogant).
Once we have developed an appropriate attitude of acceptance and compassion, we can truly approach other entitled people around us from a stance of being “for them” – for their growth and change, for their well-being and prosperity, based upon their own efforts and earning it. In essence what we have to do is help those who are entitled to:
- Accept the cold hard facts, strains, stresses, and demands of reality;
- Take responsibility for what’s theirs to own; and
- Shoulder the weight of their own life.
If we don’t do this from a compassionate center, we will be harsh and judgmental and will not accomplish the goal.
Author: Jeff Faulkner, M.S.
Jeff Faulkner, M.S., is a partner of The Rawls Group, which has helped business owners with their succession planning since 1972. Well-respected in his field, Jeff is a highly requested speaker and has published numerous articles on this subject.