4 Ways To Shred A Culture of Entitlement

The quickest ways to kill entitlement are to regularly acknowledge what others have contributed to your current levels of success and always seek to increase this for others around you.Andy Mason


What is a Culture of Entitlement?

A culture of entitlement means that your employees arrogantly believe that they deserve a certain level of unreasonable privileges. This belief is often built on the incorrect assumption that the current level of success of the organization is because of the work of the current generation of employees. Typically, nothing could be further from the truth. We are always building our organizations on the shoulders of the giants that have gone before us.

Where Does It Come From?

In the boom and bust world of the oil and gas business, a culture of entitlement always seems to take hold at the peak of the boom periods. This arrogance is created by the boom mentality where the price of oil increases and oil companies are scrambling to get more oil out of the ground by drilling new wells, creating new facilities and desperately trying to hire staff to make everything work. This desperation to hire results in escalating wages, options, perks and coddling that are simply not warranted and not sustainable.

The actual arrogance and culture of entitlement are created when employees start to believe the hype created by this oil boom madness. They begin to believe that they really are untouchable, irreplaceable and that the company could not function without them!

. . . and then the bust part of the cycle hits and everyone is abruptly brought back to reality with wage rollbacks, benefit reductions and eventually layoffs!

What can we do as leaders to avoid building this culture of entitlement or to “shred” it if it currently exists?

  1. Implement a peer to peer recognition system where peers can recognize each other for their contributions to the organization’s success. This takes the focus off of the individual themselves and places it on their peers. Instead of them saying “Look at what I have done” they begin to say “Look at what my peers have done.”
  2. Model the values that you want your organization to represent. One of the charitable organizations that I have done some work with in the past few years established “Legacy” as one of their core values. They defined Legacy as “leave things better than you found them.” Essentially the value is stating that others came before us and built what we have. Now we need to step up on the shoulders of those who went before us and make the organization even better. More more details on Values, see What Does Your Organization Value.
  3. Build a culture of continuous improvement. A great idea implemented flawlessly today is outdated tomorrow. The world can change overnight. Organizations must always be focused on making things better, raising the bar, and increasing levels of success.
  4. Although rewarding individual performance is important, build a complete compensation system where individual performance measurement and reward is a smaller component of an overall system. Ensure that the larger component is focused on a portion of the organization’s overall performance that the individual can impact. This will help focus the individual on the organization as a whole and you won’t have people being rewarded while the organization is suffering.

Take a look at your organization this week. Are there signs of entitlement among the staff? What are you going to do to address this and build a healthy, collaborative culture?

You can leave a comment on a culture of entitlement below.


I react very badly when mediocrity throws a tantrum of entitlement.Lee Siegal


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4 thoughts on “4 Ways To Shred A Culture of Entitlement

  1. What I most appreciate about Dave’s articles is that they convey operational savvy and expertise based on VALUES (… as I have previously commented!).

    The value at the core of this dissertation is big; really big. Gratitude.

    The failure to be grateful leads to all kinds of mischief and nastiness … of which a culture of entitlement is one major manifestation.

    I am grateful for this article; thanks for writing it!

  2. Well said. This phenomenon does exist . I’ve spent the past 20’some years of my career with the Oil & Gas industry and can attest to what you’re saying. I especially like your fourth point regarding the focus of reward moving from individuals to organization’s overall success. I’ve written few LinkedIn articles about Organizational Development touching on these important ideas.