We recently reached out to our hiring manager contacts and asked them to name one behavior they saw far too often in struggling new or entry-level employees. We expected them to list predictable flubs like disorganization, a lack of initiative, a lack of punctuality, or a poor work ethic. But we were surprised. The most common answer we received—by far—was "acting entitled."
We were naturally skeptical at first, because it's logical for some employers to resent employees who expect fair pay and resist exploitation. "Entitlement," when defined by employers, could mean anything from refusing menial tasks to simply asking for a well-deserved raise once a year. So to straighten out the confusion, we followed up. And in the end, we narrowed down a list of the five specific entitled behaviors that may cause serious harm to a young employee's long-term career prospects.
1. Refusing tasks that are "beneath you."
If you're asked to sweep a walkway, fetch a cup of coffee, make a photocopy, or execute any other menial chore that's not dangerous or degrading, just do it. Keep track of how often this happens, and if you recognize a pattern you don't like, raise a formal complaint or look for another job. But in the meantime, don't sulk and grumble. And don't promise to do the task if you don't plan to follow through.
2. Overdressing and underdressing.
As it happens, both of these can brand you as an "entitled" young employee. Fair? Probably not. Confusing? Certainly. But there you have it. Dress to accommodate the culture and fit it, not stand out. Outshining your coworkers can come off as an attempt to one-up them, and wearing ripped jeans to the office signals disrespect for the enterprise. Find the line.
3. Making mistakes without explanation or apology.
When you're an entry-level employee trying to work your way up the ladder, a little humility goes a long way. And apologies have more power than you may realize. You don't need to make excuses or blame others for your own mistakes, but admit them, hang your head, say you're sorry, and mean it. Then move on.
4. Overestimating their inherent value.
Contrary to what some younger employees have been told by teachers and parents, they're not magical beings with powers, charm, or insight beyond those of the people around them. Respect comes from what you produce and what you accomplish. Not who you are. At work, your completed projects are what make you special—not the simple fact of your existence.
5. Overestimating their knowledge.
Too many young employees rate their own knowledge base as wider and deeper than it actually is. And they don't work hard enough to hide this belief. If you think you know more, if you think you can see more sides of an argument, or if you think you understand more dimensions of a situation than anyone else in the room, check yourself. And make sure this erroneous belief isn't showing in your words or gestures.
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