Alexis Megdanoff: Don't ignore your entitlement

Tuesday, January 10, 2017 - 11:06am

Every year, almost all the top students from my high school attend the University of Michigan, and I am no different. I had always been a student who excelled at my work, so naturally I knew I would go to this fantastic school with the rest of my equally excelling peers. Together we would be the best of the best. Because of this, I thought I would handle any challenges I may face with ease just as I had done previously.

My logic was simple, but extremely skewed: I was a top student in high school, so of course I would be a top student here because that is who I was. It took me a while to realize how wrong this mindset was, and when the work started building up, I pacified myself by thinking everything would work itself out just as it had before.

Where did I get this idea? Why did I believe I would maintain the honors standing I had in high school while finding leadership positions in student organizations, making a whole new set of friends and learning how to manage life on my own simply because I thought this was who I am as a person? Where did this entitlement come from?

One of the most popular criticisms of millennials is our sense of entitlement. We think we deserve recognition constantly, even demand it of employers, while never expecting to stay in a job position for more than a few years. Whether it is true from individual to individual or not, we all must become aware of any amount of entitlement we maintain and do our best to remove it from our personalities. Entitlement only makes it more difficult to work together, find happiness and reach our goals.

According to Neil Blumenthal, co-founder and co-CEO of Warby Parker, “Entitlement is the root of all evil within an organization.” This type of attitude degrades collaboration among co-workers, as shown by one psychological study, which found an increased sense of entitlement leads to increased aggression after an individual receives criticism. The inability to handle feedback from others makes it difficult for teams to function efficiently in any situation.

But the negative effects go further than the workplace. The truth is entitlement is disastrous not only for workplace community but also for personal happiness — the same study also found that higher entitlement is more likely to lead to a person's emotional instability.

In a recent interview with Tom Bilyeu on the talk show Inside Quest, The New York Times bestselling author Simon Sinek discussed millennials in the workplace. While comparing the journey to affecting the world to a journey to the summit of a mountain, he said, “What this young generation needs to learn is patience. That some things that really, really matter, like love or job fulfillment, joy, love of life, self-confidence, a skill set — any of these things — all of these things take time. Sometimes you can expedite pieces of it, but the overall journey is arduous and long and difficult, and if you don’t ask for help … you will fall off the mountain.”

Our entitlement is preventing us from maintaining the patience needed to take lesser opportunities to make it to the ultimate goal. When we act entitled, we are unable to see the slow journey toward success, and if we try to forget about this timely process, we are never going to fulfill our dreams. We want change, and that is admirable, but change is not always sudden. The gradual advancement of society takes a long time and we need to admit that one generation cannot do it all before we hit 40.

Entitlement taken at face value is naturally viewed as negative. Someone who believes they deserve a raise, a promotion or a bonus simply for doing a mediocre job is bound to be disliked. Yet, Forbes came out with an article this past September that claimed millennials are punished for being anything but entitled. There are also many studies that show entitlement is not always negative. The confidence entitlement gives to individuals leads many to believe it is permissible.

Despite all of this, entitlement still damages relationships and discourages teamwork. If we have one group of people who are unable to work together and form meaningful relationships, they will be incapable of successfully working with the rest of society for the greater good. So rather than accepting our entitlement as fact, we need to begin taking responsibility for the results of our actions and stop ignoring the long journey of life ahead of us.

Alexis Megdanoff can be reached at amegdano@umich.edu.