Creating High Quality Relationships with Entitled People

We’ve been hearing a lot about managing and building relationships with entitled people these days. It isn’t surprising that this is a frequent topic of conversation, given that a study of 6.5 million US undergraduates between 1966 and 2009 found that Millennials rated themselves as more academically able than previous generations despite worse scores on aptitude tests.


Employees who are entitled expect positive outcomes, such as promotions, and pay rises, regardless of their actual performance. They will also react negatively if they aren’t given their due. Similarly, entitled employees may be less successful in building and maintaining good quality relationships with their colleagues and supervisors. For example, because negative feedback will conflict with their self-assessment, entitled employees tend to respond poorly to negative feedback. In my research with Allan Lee, Alex Newman and Gary Schwarz, we find that entitled employees feel less obligated to repay any favorable treatment from their supervisor. Thus, attempts to build relationship with highly entitled employees can be extremely difficult. So, is it impossible, no, but there are steps you can take that make it more likely.


1. Clarity around rewards: as much as possible explicitly clarify the relationships between levels of performance necessary to obtain rewards.  This should reduce confusion regarding unwarranted rewards.


2. Use as much objective data as possible. Entitled employees tend to over-evaluate their performance, hence they respond poorly to feedback that does not align with their self-evaluation. When supervisors use objective data, this can help align the entitled person’s perceptions with the supervisor’s reality.