SBJ/20100906/From The Field Of

Managing expectations tempers some ‘entitlement’ attitudes

Editor's note: This story is revised from the print edition.

One of the most compelling events of the summer is the Little League World Series, which I dreamed of playing in as a kid (and, truth be told, still do). It’s not about the trophies, but rather, the joy of witnessing kids from around the world playing our national pastime in the ultimate tournament. It still amazes me how these kids maintain their composure under the spotlight, without sacrificing passion and sportsmanship that only 12- and 13-year-olds can genuinely display.

At a recent barbecue, friends and I were watching the Series, and our conversation transitioned from today’s adolescent athletes to today’s generation of younger employees and their penchant for, as one friend put it, “immediate career entitlements.”

“They either expect an unrealistic starting salary, an immediate promotion or a more senior title with still junior responsibilities,” he lamented, adding that he believes this sense of entitlement begins early. He referenced the common practice of youth leagues awarding trophies to kids just for participating. “When did we start rewarding people just for showing up?” he asked.

Another friend remarked that the older generation bashing the softness of the younger generation was an age-old phenomenon.

“Our parents were saying the same about us,” he said. “It’s just that this generation was raised in a nanosecond-based, instant-gratification world, so they want everything now, including the benefits of career advancement.”

I’ve been hearing many variations on this conversation recently. So what’s the answer? Every generation lays claim to the challenges of their pursuits, but as generations evolve, so do their resources, awareness and expectations. Do today’s young employees feel overly entitled?

As with most business and career challenges, communication is at the heart of the matter. In the supervisor-employee relationship, each party should take the time and effort to manage each other’s expectations. Here are some select profiles of today’s young careerists and reflection opportunities to help refine their current professional perspective.

The Job Hopper

This type of person is concerned with everyone else’s salary and is primarily focused on his or her own paycheck. Their life experiences typically have included little or no bumps, owing to an enviable pedigree. They expect immediate fulfillment of their lifestyle needs. They will consider leaving for another opportunity at just the slightest pay increase, without fully exploring the career ramifications of such a move.

Discovery reflection:
Will the current career path fulfill your lifestyle needs or wants?
Do you often compare what you are making with your friends?
Explore if, how and when you expect a significant compensation increase within your specific skill sector.

“The relationship with your boss is a significant vehicle for career advancement, as they can be the strongest advocate for increased exposure and responsibility.”

— Brian Smith, director of human resources, Octagon

The Morale Buster

These individuals are inclined to blame others for their perceived less-than-satisfactory job standing, and they’ll complain to anyone who’ll listen. Typically, their parents were supportive of them as children and were apt to fix any problems as they arose. As such, these individuals may not have developed the self-confidence and/or coping skills that come from solving problems on their own.

Successful sports marketing, like any other business, is built around talented and adaptable people. It’s easy to complain about the hours and pay when first starting out, but these are known factors going in. If it bothers you early on, it’s probably an indicator of pending trouble. You might want to discuss your issues and possible solutions with your personal “board of directors” before broaching the subject with your boss.

Discovery reflection:
Review your job description and explore how it can be made more fulfilling.
List frustrations you have had with any job and boss and what you did to remedy it.
Read “The Art of Choosing” by Sheena Iyengar and “Happy” by Ian K. Smith, M.D., to better understand the decisions you make and how to get the most out of life.

The Ego Runner

We all have egos, but some young people crave personal attention early on in their career. An individual who needs such recognition just to sustain motivation may not grade out in the long term. This person’s perceived lack of credit can lead to underperformance and require reluctant hand-holding by a supervisor. As on the playing field, rising to the next level takes talent, maturity and a solid relationship with a supervisor to work through unevenness in one’s performance.

Discovery reflection:
What’s more important: attaining individual achievements or group/company goals?
Prioritize the following: compensation, quality of life, peer recognition, company success.
Explore your greatest business accomplishment and if you were satisfied how it was recognized.

The Clock Puncher

Woody Allen famously remarked that 80 percent of success is showing up. OK, maybe. But we all know that much more is required to realize one’s career potential. If your personal drive is stuck in neutral, your immediate priority should be to discover that core motivation. There are plenty of talented people able and willing to take your job. Sooner or later, Jack Welch’s philosophy of “weeding out the bottom 10 percent” may force your hand. Commit to your personal discovery and understand how this motivation can benefit you and your company.

“Keep the focus on developing your skills and on a parallel path, understand the big picture of how your organization can best leverage them.”

— Steve Lauletta, president, Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates

Discovery reflection:
If all things were equal, what job would you want?
What do you enjoy doing in your free time and can you connect that to your career?
Read “Wooden” by John Wooden and Steve Jamison for personal philosophy on family, achievement, success and excellence.

There will always be fundamental differences between generations, but transparent personal motivation and accountability will resonate with any group and often help one’s career advancement.

Glenn Horine (ghorine@handhconsulting.net) is a 25-year industry veteran and the executive director of Iona College’s Center for Sports and Entertainment Studies, as well as a career development consultant and speaker.

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