Culture Shift: Are younger employees entitled?
By Ashleigh Petersen Galen Emanuele
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Culture Shift: Are younger employees entitled?

There is this idea that has permeated the work world in the last few years that people of younger generations entering the workforce are pretty entitled. I propose a shift to the general thinking around this, and I challenge you to start with this question: Are people entitled or do they want to feel empowered?

Yes, younger people are coming in saying that they want a seat at the table, that they want their voices to be heard, that they want to have more autonomy and authority, and to not feel micromanaged.

When I hear and see those things, all I hear is people wanting to feel empowered and to feel like their voice matters.

I think that most of the pushback against what new employees are asking for comes from the reality that historically, companies have done a marvelous job of making sure employees don’t feel empowered.

If you’ve ever gone to a restaurant, had a terrible experience and left feedback for the restaurant, that was because of a desire to feel empowered in that situation. That’s you finding a way to say, “This was not OK,” and wanting others to know about your experience.

I don’t think that’s you feeling entitled, I think it’s you wanting to feel empowered. Newer employees want to ask questions and challenge the status quo.

They want to know why you think that’s the best way to do it, they want to share ideas of how they think it could be done better, and possibly share stories of how they’ve seen other companies do it better.

However, many times they are met with the sentiment of “That’s the way we’ve always done it” or “You don’t understand.”

There is a balance here. Yes, younger employees typically don’t have years of experience in real-world business norms and dynamics. Yes, there are things that they most likely do not understand, but think they do.

Also, sometimes the way things are done by companies is unnecessarily old school, inefficient or illogical. Companies often hold precious the status quo instead of being willing to be challenged.

As a leader, if you want an environment where everybody is being productive and growing, you have to develop the skills both to empower people and to hold them accountable in ways that support their growth.

The first step is to shed the mindset that people feel entitled. Instead, shift to an understanding that people want to feel empowered.

To bring those people in and keep them, you must encourage and genuinely empower them. At the same time, be willing and prepared to hold people accountable and ensure that avenues are in place to help them grow and learn.

From day one of joining your team make sure they know what’s expected of them. Make sure they know how to go about challenging something and how to give productive feedback about their work experience, the organization and your organization’s leadership.

Empowerment, guidance and accountability are all necessary components of effective mentorship and producing high-caliber employees.

Challenge your thinking whenever you find yourself interpreting that a new or younger employee has an overblown sense of entitlement. See it as their need to feel empowered and look for ways to support their desire to be heard and have an impact, while also guiding and holding a high bar for them.

Not only will it help them, but it will help you build an organization where everyone is developing, growing and learning from each other.

Galen Emanuele is a speaker and trainer on business leadership and team culture based out of Portland, Ore. Every week, Emanuele produces a video and blog post highlighting vital conversations, building skill sets and showing teams how to drive exceptional culture and leadership. To see more, visit shiftyes.com/blog.

Ashleigh Petersen

Ashleigh PetersenAshleigh Petersen

Ashleigh Petersen is the associate editor for Rental Management. She writes news and feature articles, plus coordinates the monthly Safety Issue and several sections in the magazine. Ashleigh loves spending time with her husband and young son, baking, gardening and listening to true crime and comedy podcasts.

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