Entitlement is “killing your business,” says author Brad Hams.
And after more than 15 years working with hundreds of companies, Hams says he knows “that the vast majority of employees addicted to entitlement actually want to engage, want to contribute, and feel much better about themselves when they are in an environment that requires them to do so.”
Hams takes a no holds barred approach in his new book, Ownership Thinking — How to End Entitlement and Create a Culture of Accountability, Purpose and Profit.
He believes that:
- Roughly 8 percent of potential profit may be falling through the cracks in your company if you suffer from a culture of entitlement
Ownership Thinking is a provocative read for leaders within an organization and for every level generation of employees who are guided by those leaders.
“Entitlement has become an enormous problem in our culture, and I’m afraid it’s getting worse with every generation,” says Hams.
In an exclusive interview, Hams answered these questions:
Question: What makes you say that employees actually want to take ownership of their work?
Hams: Perhaps the most tangible answer is the fact that we have implemented Ownership Thinking in over 1,600 companies over the past 16 years, and in nearly every case, employees have become far more engaged in the business, the businesses have become more profitable (and those profits are shared with employees), and employee retention has increased on average by roughly 200 percent.
People are drawn to unearned compensation and security for obvious reasons, but we have learned that they are not happy there. In part, because dependence on these unearned benefits creates feelings of purposelessness, and ultimately crushes potential. Employees want to participate, they want to contribute, and they want to benefit from their contributions.
We have also seen that contributors become less tolerant of non-contributors in this environment, creating something of a self-selecting environment.
Question: Do you think your book will be deemed controversial?
Hams: Perhaps to some. I believe those people who may be offended are those who have a misguided sense of altruism. They believe that people are essentially helpless, and must be supported. I know this is not true.
People are in fact tough, and the vast majority of them can lift themselves up and take care of themselves, and in fact many can do extraordinary things when put in a position where they must take responsibility for themselves.
Providing things for people who in fact could, in fact, obtain these things themselves through work and perseverance, simply exacerbates this unhealthy (and I would say tragic) cycle of purposelessness and dependence.
Question: For the generation that was protected by their parents, is it fair to say that those children are not at fault that they have an entitlement attitude?
Hams: I don’t care who is at fault. What I care about is breaking people of this tragic addiction that is preventing them from leading fulfilled and beautiful lives. Ownership Thinking can do that.
Question: For that entitlement generation now in their adulthood, how do they break out of the mold and clearly demonstrate to employers their buy-in of Ownership Thinking? What is the best thing they can do?
Hams: Leadership must create the environment for them to do this, I believe. They can do it by utilizing the core principals of Ownership Thinking:
- The Right Education: Teaching employees the fundamentals of business and finance, how their company makes money, and how they add (or take away) value.
- The Right Measures: Identifying the organization’s Key Performance Indicators (with an emphasis on leading, activity-based measures), creating scoreboards, and forecasting results in an environment of high visibility and accountability.
- The Right Incentives: Creating broad-based incentive plans that are self-funding (by virtue of the first two components), and that clearly align employees’ behavior to the organization’s business and financial objectives.