Entitlement-minded staff more likely to accuse their boss of abuse

Sep 18 2013 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Employees who exhibit signs of "psychological entitlement" with an unjustified sense of their own importance and ability are more likely to say that their bosses are abusive than co-workers who don't share the same mindset.

Research led by Paul Harvey, an associate professor of organizational behavior at the University of New Hampshire, found that when they compared the responses of employees supervised by the same manager, these so-called entitled employees were more likely to report higher levels of abuse from their managers when their less-entitled co-workers did not.

Symptoms of psychological entitlement include an unjustified positive self-perceptions and a reluctance to accept criticism that would undermine an individual's rosy view of themselves. At work, entitled employees can be selfish, narcissistic and believe that they deserve greater rewards and more praise for their work than is warranted by their performance.

This combination of inaccurate perceptions of supervisory abuse and a sense of entitlement can be a pose problem for managers. "These managers might find that any critical feedback or unpopular decisions are met with heightened abuse perceptions, impairing their ability to conduct these difficult, but occasionally necessary, aspects of their jobs," Harvey said.

What's more, the potential for entitlement-minded employees to take retaliatory action against a supervisor "might pose a threat to the careers and livelihoods of managers if it provokes abusive behaviors or causes employees to view legitimate managerial behaviors, such as giving constructive negative feedback, as abusive," he added.

"The adage 'perception is reality' may apply in that entitled employees who believe they are abused by supervisors, accurately or inaccurately, will likely respond in negative psychological and behavioral ways," Harvey said.

"For this reason, eliminating abusive behaviors by supervisors might not completely eliminate the perception of abuse or the associated emotions and stress that can motivate retaliation by employees."

Harvey's research, "Abusive Supervision and the Entitled Employee", carried out with Kenneth Harris from Indiana University Southeast, William Gillis from the University of South Alabama, and Mark Martinko from the University of Queensland, will appear in the forthcoming issue of The Leadership Quarterly.