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Ken Keller: Entitlement and enabling; Who is at fault?

Brain Food for Business Owners

Posted: October 7, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: October 7, 2012 2:00 a.m.

I met with Ted to discuss his career options. Ted has been employed by his company for a number of years.

Ted is in his mid 40s. His story is heard often these days.

As he laid out his issues, I heard “The Entitlement Blues” in the background. It’s a song we have all played and sung through the years.

To help Ted discover the underlying issues, I asked questions, helping to frame things, learning that he had seven management peers at his employer.

“Where do you rank in that list?” I asked. Ted said “probably fifth” but added the ranking was on years of service.

I asked Ted how he ranked himself based on metrics that the company used to measure success. He thought and said he would rank third or fourth.

If I was the boss, I asked him, would I either promote you or give you a raise over the other managers with higher ratings?

“Because I deserve it”, he told me. “I’ve been working my butt off, I have been there for many years and …” His voice trailed off. The answer was all emotion; no facts or logic.

Ted is no different than many other managers and employees who have been working at a place for years and expected automatic raises.

What Ted doesn’t realize is that those days are history.

Because Ted has been working for many years at the same place, he has a very limited view. Ted isn’t paying attention to the changes in the world and I noticed that he isn’t paying attention to what is taking place at his own company.

Ted’s company isn’t laying anyone off, but those that leave are not being replaced. More is expected from those who are on the payroll. Costs are being reduced wherever possible.

What Ted does hear, from his friends and family, is that there are plenty of people out of work who can’t find jobs. Ted believes what he wants to, and that if someone can’t find a job, it is because they really don’t want to work.

Ted doesn’t hear that hardly anyone is getting raises these days, and the raises that are given are small. More companies now have pay for performance programs where if a person delivers results, they are rewarded. If they don’t perform, not only is there no performance pay, people are often replaced.

Ted is living pretty much in the past. He is in denial about his own situation, that of his employer and of the world around him.

The lesson I shared with Ted is one of awareness. Ted had not yet grasped the brutal facts of his current situation.

Instead of complaining about the lack of regular raises, and how cheap and mean the owner of the business was, Ted might have taken the initiative to find out what he could as a manager to improve revenue, reduce expenses and improve cash flow and profits.

As a manager, Ted should know how to positively impact key performance drivers and metrics. But Ted was feeling sorry for himself and angry at the boss instead of looking in the mirror.

But Ted wasn’t the only one at fault in this situation. The owner also bears some responsibility for the failure to educate the employees what they could do to help improve things. Keeping information private is the right of every owner, but keeping too much private means you won’t have anyone helping you turn things around.

So while Ted is guilty of an entitlement attitude, the owner is guilty of enabling the employees. It’s a recipe for anger, bitterness, frustration and poor business results.

Ken Keller is CEO of STAR Business Consulting Inc., a company that works with companies interested in growing top line revenue. He can be reached at Keller’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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