Empower? Yes, but Avoid Creating Entitlement
Our company has a long history of teaching principles of empowerment. We have lived these concepts, and much of what we facilitate and teach is based on our own experiences as leaders in companies such as Texas Instruments.
Many have tried empowerment. Not so many have succeeded. One of the serious traps that exists on the Empowerment Journey is “entitlement.”
Entitlement and its negative consequences are not just a function of unprepared attempts at empowerment. It can result from many miss-steps of management within organizations.
So, what is entitlement?
I will reference from an excellent book by Dr. Judith Bardwick, Danger in the Comfort Zone.
“Entitlement is the name I have given to an attitude, a way of looking at life. Those who have this attitude believe that they do not have to earn what they get. They come to believe that they get something because they are owed it, because they’re entitled to it. They get what they want because of who they are, not because of what they do.”
Dr. Bardwick focuses a lot on American corporations: people not really contributing, but still expecting to get their regular raise, their scheduled promotion. This attitude is very dangerous.
- It lowers productivity
- It crushes self esteem
- It destroys motivation
Entitlement doesn’t just exist in the ranks of corporate America. With only a few moments of reflection you can list many settings. A couple of examples include:
- Executive bonuses expected regardless of company performance
- Government employees who maintain that they are job-secure, regardless of contribution
- Settings where tenure and seniority rule reward & promotion rather than performance
- Senior employees on the “retirement glide,” expecting the regular paycheck without much effort as they approach retirement
The case we are referring to, indeed the trap, is the entitlement that can exist among those that have been involved in careless efforts of empowerment. Entitlement in this instance is a sense of having authority for decisions and actions but no accountability for the results. This is a formula for disaster.
ATC empowerment processes head this off with the initial training for both leaders and employees/teams. In the next post, we will talk about some of the important steps that prevent this condition, so that you can truly reap the benefits of successful empowerment.