The Work Ethic of Entitlement

Over the past few months, I’ve had many colourful chats with startup founders regarding the work ethic of…millennials. It is a story that begins with the frustration of, “They made me hate going to work in my own business…” And by the end of it, we are all in laughter and tears. It was frustrating at the time; but in hindsight the whole thing was hilarious.

They have no respect, no appreciation for the wisdom that can only come with time and experience, a complete lack of accountability, no sense of ownership and poor social skills. If you started your leadership journey as a kind and compassionate soul; you can be rest assured that after repeatedly dealing with the disease of entitlement–your inner ‘jerk’ will come to the fore.

First of all, I just want to add as a caveat that entitlement is not something that is unique to millennials. Privilege–not age–is at the heart of what makes an individual entitled. Some people outgrow this attitude, others don’t–not even in their 50s. One can find this disease in every individual that is accustomed to asking for what he or she wants and is unable to take ‘no’ or even ‘not right now’ for an answer. As a former educator, I can vouch for these individuals being spoon-fed by their parents, their teachers and by the amount of time they are permitted to spend on the internet where anything and everything is available with a quick Google search.

Delayed gratification is not something that the privileged understand.

I think every startup founder secretly dreams of having that young, high potential candidate that’s fresh out of uni join the firm with their numerous new ideas, enthusiasm and energy. Instead, what we get stuck with is babysitting twenty-something year olds who refuse to–or simply don’t have the capacity–to grow up.

“But they are young,” I hear their defendants say. “Think about what you were like at that age.”

I nod, momentarily empathetic. And then I remembered–I had left home to live in a foreign country at the age of twenty. Even before that, I had worked in the family business for decades. I was exposed to a lot–and did not grow up with a ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ view of the world.

Life is hard. It is full of challenges. If you have an issue, don’t ‘confront’ me on it on social media by uploading memes and quotes. Instead, have a conversation with me. And yes, be prepared to not get what you want even after the conversation. You are expected to prove yourself. As leaders (and investors) in the organisation, we will do what is best for the business. We are not managers–whose job is to ‘take care’ of you so that you will do your job. As an employee, it is your responsibility to provide value to the organisation. If you’re not doing that, then you know where the door is. No one is forcing you to stay.

If you are not creating equity; but are draining it–you don’t belong here. Pack your bags and leave. At least have the courtesy to give notice and do it face-to-face.

We are a team, you understand? We win together and lose together. If your win comes at the expense of someone else in the team–then how can we ever progress as one entity? No, I am not impressed by competitiveness or jealously amongst your peers as you attempt to outdo or outwit them. This is not a school where I will give you an A and a top prize. Each individual is expected to contribute to the collective.

To be completely frank, I feel sorry for these individuals. They have been raised to believe that each and every one of them will be the next Bill Gates, the next Steve Jobs or the next… The biggest problem I believe is not the goal… but that they want the destination (and the rewards) without the journey (or the hardships).

Someone who runs away at the first sight of conflict or confrontation simply does not have the stomach for the journey… Let alone the destination. It is best to let go of such individuals; for they will needlessly weight you down on your own journey.

In either case, I prefer to travel light without taking on deadweights that are best left behind I move forward and become the leader I was meant to be.


Dipa Sanatani is the Publisher at Mith Books and the author of The Little Light and The Merchant of Stories. In The Merchant of Stories, Dipa takes the reader on a personal journey–narrated through a series of candid journal entries–on what it takes for entrepreneurs and creatives to start their very first venture.

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