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What Does Entitlement Have To Do With Workplace Bullying?

Entitlement refers to a belief that one is deserving of some particular reward or benefit.

We have many accepted social entitlements such as:

The first in line is the first served. Ever try to cut into a line-up and go to the front?  People’s sense of fairness and justice creates a feeling of “I don’t deserve this” and one is likely to be upset.  “It’s not fair”.

Equal pay for equal work done. As soon as someone finds out someone is paid more for doing the same job with the same background and or skills, this becomes “unfair” and feelings of “being treated as less than” arise.

So what is the link between perceived disrespectful behavior at work and entitlement?  Why would anyone act with a sense of entitlement?  When is it justified, when is it not?  Let’s take a look:

Entitlement May Occur When:

  • We sense we are not being treated fairly and others have ‘better treatment’ than we do;
  • We perceive someone as not treating us fairly when in fact we feel they could be (“how dare they!”)

What Can Happen When We Feel We Are Not Being Treated Fairly:

  • Feelings of resentment can occur.  Question: what do you do with your feelings of resentment?
  • We act and feel like we are ‘owed’ something we are not getting;
  • We wonder ‘why’ we are not being treated as we ‘should be treated’.

Consider This:

  1. Everyone will be in a position at some point where ‘things are not fair’.  Everyone.
  2. When we feel it is ‘only us’, we feel worse.
  3. No one wants to feel mistreated in terms of not being treated fairly.
  4. Managers and supervisors: are you treating everyone equitably?  This is right to do so.  If you are not, please know this kind of leadership will create tension in your staff.  If you have been violating this step, go back and ‘own’ your previous leadership by making amends with each staff where you’ve not participated in equitable leadership.  This is easy not to do…the winners will ‘get this’ step and do this right away.  The average will skim this hint and carry on as if it doesn’t matter.
  5. Staff: you may be feeling ‘less than’ at work due to an unmet need or unmet needs.  Be very specific in what you are upset about and be clear with what you want instead.  There is a human tendency that if one major need is not being met and this lowers the ‘goodwill pot’, that everything else looks grim as well.  Separate your situations.  Remove the performer from the performance.
  6. If this ‘unfair behavior’ keeps taking place, keep a well documented log; and if you have a series of repeated behaviors that are ‘unfair’, then you might have a case of bullying.

What To Watch Out For:

  1. Continually be in touch with what does not ‘seem fair’.  What is it exactly?  Sometimes we can get lazy and be ‘upset’ and not even know why.
  2. Knowing ‘why’ will allow you to ask yourself: “What do I want instead?
  3. Now review what you want instead and see if it is a reasonable request.
  4. In the case of workplace bullying, most definitely, your request will be reasonable.  We just need to make sure we are documenting bullying behaviors, as opposed to a situation where someone is upset at something but they do not know why, or what they want instead; leaving the other person with no real idea of how they can change it.
  5. A culture of entitlement will occur when managers and leaders do not manage the culture in a positive way by managing and addressing issues employees want answers to.  Be responsive, timely and accurate in your information.  If you do not have an answer or a satisfactory answer, be honest with that instead of sweeping it under the carpet.

There are some things we are entitled to and have come to expect.  It is frustrating to not have our expectations met at any time.  If we can own more of this problem by being clear as to what we don’t want and what we’d like instead, then we are in a position to make a request for change.  Also ask:  Are these requests fair for the company as well?  Leaders, what will you do to curb entitlement? All employees: what will you do when your expectations are not met?


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2 responses to “What Does Entitlement Have To Do With Workplace Bullying?”

  1. Nodin says:

    I am forever indebted to you for this ifnormtiaon.

  2. Sonia says:

    What a great great website, I have been through this, pushed into a corner, where I ended up leaving a job I absolutely loved for 9 years.
    I have had the nightmares, and just starting to get over severe depression. I am currently in a Human Rights case against the organization. Thank you so much for the read. Too bad Manitoba doesn’t have any laws or guidelines on this.

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Valerie Cade, CSP is a Workplace Bullying Expert, Speaker and Author of "Bully Free at Work: What You Can Do To Stop Workplace Bullying Now!" which has been distributed in over 100 countries worldwide. For presentations and consulting on workplace bullying prevention and respectful workplace implementation, go to

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