Generation Entitlement

Is there a sense of entitlement we hear on the rise, or is it just something that seems to be coming up more and more often in my home these days?


Whether in the workplace or in families that are easily described as “over-achievers, the sense of the entitlement and “keeping up with the Joneses”, or should I say, “The Kardashians”, has slowly been creeping into our living rooms, classrooms, and corporate board rooms. It seems there is a generation of little monsters in the making, who don’t play fair and no longer know how to lose gracefully, even at a simple game of checkers.

I can recall my excitement working my first job at the age of 14. It was a sub shop owned by a nice young couple where my older sister worked at the time. They hired me one Sunday afternoon when another kid didn’t show up and my sister suggested they give me a shot at it. I was so grateful I stayed for two years! I earned about $38.00 a week, and I recall thinking I had hit “the big time.”

My favorite store for browsing on payday was Pier1. There, I could travel the world and visit foreign lands without leaving my backyard. My imagination would wonder, I would envision the dinner plates for my future parties, colorful decorative pillows for my patio would be strategically placed, and if I was lucky, I would walk out with a $3.00 candle.

This first job taught me much. I learned about people, customer service, taking orders, and listening to others. I realized I didn’t like the food industry and hated working with onions and tuna. Most of all, I learned about myself. I learned that “entitlement” was acceptable only when self-earned–not when expected from others. I learned that success in one’s personal or business life is best generated when achieved by one’s own efforts through hard work, dedication, teamwork, and commitment. I learned at a very young age that I could achieve whatever I set out to do. It may have only been $38.00 a week or a $3.00 candle, but it was my money and my candle that I earned. It was my decision to spend it on what I thought was important to me at the time. I had the power, and the “entitlement” was earned, not given.

My parents didn’t have much money to spend on us, but what they did have, they gave freely. We never lacked the essentials; we just didn’t have many “pretty candles” or “colorful pillows.”

Today, when young college graduates replace their cap and gowns, for their suits and ties, they often wonder why their pay isn’t much more then what their last high school jobs paid. Did they forget their history class? It is not uncommon to hear a high school student not wanting to “flip burgers” because it’s not worth their time. Really? How much is their time really worth? What silver spoon were they fed from? Did they not listen to stories told of the Great Depression in history class, or do they really think The Kardashians are a family to emulate?

I, for one, recall my father sharing his many stories about being grateful for one loaf of bread and sharing it with his five siblings in the 1930’s. Let’s remind our youth of this history and not be so quick to give them all that we did not have, just because we have it to give.

As a parent, it’s easy to want to give our children more then what we had, yet in doing so, we can easily lose the valuable life lessons along the way. As business leaders, let’s not always be in such a haste to promote and bypass the hard life lessons of “losing some” and “winning some” that teaches the young scholars of today to become great leaders of tomorrow. Let’s remember the value of slowing it down, learning the lessons of hard work, rolling up our sleeves, and sweating a bit. Let’s bring back hard work for a change and remind ourselves that entitlement is best enjoyed when earned.


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