The Law of the Pack

Rowena Crosbie is a member of EO Iowa and president of Tero International, Inc.

Are millennials narcissistic and lazy? Do they believe that they are entitled to rank and privilege they haven’t earned? Or, does their ambition make them eager to leave behind what they perceive to be an outmoded framework for career growth and success?

Rank can be consciously or unconsciously assigned. Consider the law of the pack. Let’s consider dog behavior.

Buster comes to his new home from the shelter. He is automatically programmed to either relate to his owners as parents or siblings. What do his owners do? They gush over him and talk to him in a high-pitched voice that sounds to Buster more like a sibling than someone responsible for him. When he gets excited, they allow him to jump, charge through doors and drag them down the street. He claims privileges of higher rank. His position is set. He is in control. Buster outranks his owners.

What can this tell us about how each new generation is indoctrinated into the workforce? One of the greatest challenges faced by organizations is providing a work environment and benefits that attract the best employees, yet still setting expectations and avoiding a culture of entitlement.

Entitlement and privilege corrupt, says James Stockdale.

Clearly, leaders in organizations never intend to communicate that the comfort and personal equity of employees take priority over what it is they are tasked to do. But consider the message given when the interview candidate or new employee are told of the state-of-the-art fitness facility, game rooms, no formal dress code, compensated meals, convenient flex hours and optional educational programs. Add to this the promise of lavish bonuses when the company is profitable, regardless of individual contributions.

Is there a problem with companies creating a state-of-the-art workplace and exemplary employee benefits?

No. The problem lies in the incomplete communication. There are many examples of organizations that offer employees a unique and upscale work experience.

Zappos and Disney are two examples. However, what they also communicate—and many organizations fail to—are the expectations of employees. Zappos provides a unique organizational culture that appeals to many individuals. They also spend several weeks on new employee orientation educating the new employee on the organization’s goals and the expectations of each employee. They are famous for “the offer,” which is a US$3,000 take-it or leave-it offer to leave the organization after the company has outlined its expectations. In this way, individuals have the opportunity to publicly affirm whether they are signing on or they are walking.

Disney has a similarly intensive new employee orientation program that not only covers the many benefits of working for the prestigious organization, but also describes the less-attractive realities of working there: difficult shifts, strict dress code and the requirement to be pleasant in every situation—even when you don’t feel like it.

Like Buster’s new owners, leaders have good intentions.

They are setting out to create a wonderful experience for the new employee in the hopes that excellent performance will follow. Instead, entitlement may result.

In their attempt to sell the benefits of the company, organizations often fail to put performance expectations at the forefront. They don’t successfully explain that many benefits are in exchange for top performance.

What employee experience are you creating in your work environment? We know how Buster responded. How is the new employee going to respond?

Tero International, Inc., is a recognized leader in the research, development and delivery of training programs that help people build the interpersonal skills that research reports account for 85% of professional success.

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