While many young restaurant employees are hard workers with good attitudes, plenty of others fit the stereotype of their millennial generation counterparts: lazy narcissists who think they’re too good to be doing this sort of job. Sad to say, having an attitude of entitlement is not a rarity in the workforce of today, particularly among employees under the age of 30. That’s why managing these employees can so often be problematic.
Why? Owners and managers often find themselves playing the part of “cheerleader.” They fear negative reactions to criticism and tolerate mediocre job performances to avoid dealing with their employees’ poor attitudes. Employers can feel trapped when dealing with attitudes of entitlement among their staff members. They endure offensive demeanors to avoid the hassles of retraining new staff, wrongful termination lawsuits and defensive hostile reactions from would-be terminated employees.
Fortunately, reversing course with problem staffers is not as difficult as you might think. The following five easy-to-master tips can turn around negative attitudes and allow employers to assume their proper roles in the workplace:
1. Establish your relationship with each staff member from the very beginning. Employers should not concern themselves with being friends with their employees. In fact, doing so promotes a dysfunctional workplace where roles are ill defined. This leads to power struggles, resentment and possibly stomach ulcers. Employers need to make it clear that relationships with their staff members will, in no way, resemble peer relationships. The relationship between employer and employee works best when interactions are kind but formal as opposed to friend-like and casual.
2. Don’t over-thank employees for doing the jobs they’ve been hired to do. It is fine to express words of appreciation for exceptional job performance from time to time, but it should not be routine. Compliments and words of affirmation mean much more when they are earned. There is a school of thought that for every criticism an employee receives five positive pieces of feedback should follow. Frankly, this practice is questionable at best. It’s important that employees grasp the principal message employers are trying to convey. If employers want to deliver a clear message, disguising it with fluffy compliments will have the opposite effect.
3. Minimize emotional communication. Less is more when it comes to emotional exchanges between employers and staff. Consider this example of a corrective message delivered emotionally with a pleading tone: “I really, really need you to be on time from now on. I know it’s hard with the traffic and all, but please try to be on time.” Now read the same message but delivered unemotionally: “You have not demonstrated that being on time is your priority. I expect you to correct that immediately.” The second example is not harsh, hostile or overly critical. It is simply an honest observation with a clear directive. The first example puts the employer in the role of a child asking for something from an adult. The second example reinforces appropriate roles.
4. Don’t be arrogant or unkind to exert your power. Employers that behave like they are above the need to be courteous only succeed in provoking feelings of resentment and defiant behavior, and can compromise employees’ overall efforts to please the employer.
5. Don’t give universal rewards. Many employers make the mistake of giving all staff members the same reward even when individual performances vary tremendously. For example, if an employer gives each of his sales staff a $500 gift card when only a few employees earned the reward, it may demoralize those who worked hard enough to earn the reward and reinforce the entitled attitude of those who did not. Individual incentives tend to encourage extra effort, while group incentives allow slackers to ride on the coattails of others. Group rewards have the potential to further reinforce attitudes of entitlement.
A rule of thumb for employers is to always make their expectations clear, not just in regards to job duties, but also concerning attitude. While changing the culture in any work environment can be difficult and uncomfortable, it is likely to be worth the effort. Remember, if nothing changes, nothing changes.
Barbara Jaurequi speaks on a variety of personal and professional topics and is the author of A.C.E.S. – Adult-Child Entitlement Syndrome. Reach her at [email protected] or at 909-944-6611.