“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,” Phillipians 2:3
A recent psychological study shows that large numbers of millennials have developed an entitlement complex. “The psychological trend comes from the belief that you are superior to others and are more deserving of certain things.” Wow.
Examples of how this plays out ranges from disregarding rules, freeloading or being the cause of inconvenience. It is also tied to a likelihood to assume the role of leader while working with others. It is described as a “toxic narcissistic trait.” It can lead to frustration, unhappiness and disappointment with life.
It’s really where the rubber meets the road. A person with a worldview of self-superiority will have an inevitable collision with the real world. A millennial with this trait is almost doomed to failure because their self-centered desires doesn’t mesh with the fact that the world doesn’t work that way.
Many millennials approach their first job with an expectation that they will start at the top rung, rather than at the bottom and work their way up. From my own experience mentoring young lawyers, I can safely say that this is almost a reckless view.
I always told young associates working under me that it would take at least 3 years of daily involvement with my legal specialty to be proficient. There is no substitute for actual hands-on experience, or what I referred to as “OJT” [On the Job Training].
Julie Exline, who was involved in the study, says this: “The entire mindset [of entitlement] pits someone against other people. When people think they should have everything they want, often for nothing – it comes at the cost of relationships of others and, ultimately their own happiness.”
Interestingly, the study goes on to suggest a very biblical value to break out from this mentality: humility. If a person is more grateful and accepts their own limitations, they are less likely to be trapped by this trend.
Other practical solutions for the millennials dealing with this outlook include an introspective bent: Reflection on incidents from someone else’s perspective, promotion of others, and ceasing to rationalize things when you have been wrong.
I would submit that there is yet another practical solution: having a mentor. A mentor can guide a millennial through this minefield. An older person who has experience with relationships and expectations, combined with a strong hand of reality of how things really work, is invaluable.
Alicia Boyes, PhD. in Psychology Today, has written a good primer entitled “9 Types of Entitlement Tendencies and How to Overcome Them.” It’s a good read and helpful.
One of the reasons for this trend is that current parenting styles set into motion in our children’s minds that they are special. One simple illustration: instead of a birthday party, we have an over-the-top extravaganza. What message does this leave with the child? They know they can expect to get anything they want.
We have catered to the “Me, Me, Me” mentality by satisfying our children’s every need or want. Gratitude goes out the window. We have, in many cases, over-indulged our children to their detriment because they haven’t developed a sense of balance as to what is or is not appropriate to expect. They lose their sense of gratitude and replace it with an attitude of entitlement.
When my three kids were growing up (they are all Generation X), I was concerned about over indulging them financially. I could have easily done that. But I adopted my father’s philosophy which was that I would pay for their education as far as they wanted to go, and after that it was up to them.
As a reward for completion of college, I gave each of them a car. It was not an entitlement; it was a reward for a job well done, and I didn’t want them to start their careers with a car payment.
Granted, not every millennial has an entitlement mentality, but it is pervasive enough to be a problem for the next generation. When the entitled millennial goes into the business world, their view of self-importance collides with the reality that they aren’t “special” and they don’t have the training or skills to handle what they think they should be doing.
One anecdote of this last point. A young entrepreneur, a millennial herself, was interviewing to hire some additional staff. She went through 20 interviews with millennials.
None of them were willing to start as an assistant – their sense of entitlement made them feel they were above starting at the ground floor. She finally hired one, but had to fire her after some behavior issues after only 2 days.
“The entitlement epidemic usually begins with over-parenting—over-indulging, over-protecting, over-pampering, over-praising, and jumping through hoops to meets kids’ endless demands,” says Amy McCready, founder of Positive Parenting Solutions. “Today’s generation of parents are overly invested in their child’s happiness, comfort and success.”
As Simon Sinek in his video Millennials in the Workplace (link is below and it’s worth watching) – many millennials are the product of poor parenting styles, so they’ve been dealt a “bad hand.” Business is having to adopt and adjust to them, not the other way around.
For parents, it’s time to rethink the results of our parenting which leads to behavioral issues later in life. This phenomenon is not new: Tony Compolo, a Christian sociologist, wrote about this in the early 1990’s in a book entitled “Who Changed the Price Tags.”
Our challenge is to reach out to the floundering millennial who might have unreasonable expectations of entitlement. Sadly, someone who is narcissistic is a tough case to handle, so this is no easy fix. As mentors, we are in a good position to be the sounding board of reality and speak into their lives. They need outside help to develop a sense of gratitude and humility.
MENTOR TAKEAWAY: Your relationship with the next generation can be instrumental in correcting any “vision” issues they have as to what they are or are not entitled to. In many cases, they cannot “see” that their attitude is a problem.
FURTHER STUDY: The Alicia Boyes article in Psychology Today is found at:
The article on the Entitlement trend is found at: https://www.indy100.com/article/young-people-entitlement-disappointed-narcissism-psychology-research-7867961
Another helpful article: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/singletons/201511/9-signs-child-has-entitlement-issues
An article on entitlement leading to chronic disappointment: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/09/160913134442.htm
Simon Sinek on Millennials in the Workplace: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hER0Qp6QJNU
WORSHIP: Listen to Christ Tomlin sing “We Fall Down” which reminds us we all have shortcomings that are forgiven at the foot of the Cross:
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