Let’s Talk about Entitlement in the Workplace

Wondering Where Hard Work and Professional Humility Have Gone
Filed Under > Let's Talk

Entitlement in the work place

Upon hearing the Olsen twin’s response to (or rather, their shut down of) their recent intern lawsuit the other day, I fell down a rabbit hole reading about not only unpaid internships, but about entitlement in the workplace in general.  Being only a few years fresh into the paid-working world and newly managing projects myself, I knew this was a discussion I wanted to dig into, and one that hit pretty close to home. 

I began to wonder, in a world where participation trophies and extreme nepotism are becoming the norm, whatever happened to the idea of working for your place to kickstart your career? Internship lawsuits are being filed left and right against fashion designers, magazine publishers and the like, and with those filings come questions from all sides about work expectations of the younger generation in their attempts to gain footing in the workplace.

A very interesting excerpt from Richard Kirshenbaum’s book (which I urge you to read) Isn’t That Rich?: Life Among the 1 Percent,” only fueled my food for thought.  Kirshenbaum addresses entitlement found amount young people looking to land an internship or entry-level job simply because they believe that they deserve it (an epidemic that is not just rampant among the 1 percent). 

“Entitlement is a contagious, insidious state of mind that has infected a whole generation of young people who feel they deserve things based on who they think they are or who their parents are, ” writes Kirshenbaum in his book.  “Or who they’ve been told they are. Entitlement also affects adults, who feel they should have or get things based on their friends having them or just feeling worthy.” 

Kirshenbaum recognizes that many young adults have the “idea that the world exists for them and owes them what they want when they want it.” 

This topic is not only interesting but relevant to me.  A mere five years ago, I began to put in my due-time running errands around town and answering phones at a handful of competitive internships (paid and unpaid) and then went on to do more for my entry-level job at a leading firm. I logged hours with data entry, I coordinated business meeting times (and messed that up too often to count) and I took notes and compiled presentations for supervisors. All of this work, though not my favorite, helped shape me into a communications professional that could hold my own in future positions in my career. Momentary frustrations about being at the bottom of the food chain were to be expected, but in the end, I learned my place in the company and understood the importance of humility and motivation in my career. 

Though I got through the menial errands and mindless work, like so many others my age and younger, I admit that I sometimes felt fleeting tinges of entitlement too.  It’s easy to fall into the trap of feeling like you just deserve that raise or promotion, as we’ve been taught to “lean in” and stand up for ourselves in professional environments. We think we’re being proactive and driven, when in fact it comes across as arrogant and entitled. Sometimes, we just need to put our heads down and hustle. 

My hope is that in place of future complaints and lawsuits, the younger generation can focus their energy on understanding how to succeed in an internship and learn professional humility to do what it takes to get the job done. Understanding that this work will only serve them in the long run, providing invaluable lessons, and making that hard-earned success down the road that much sweeter.

But let’s talk about it!  I’d love to hear your thoughts about entitlement in the workplace too.  This post is intended to serve as food for thought, and I understand some specific situations regarding unpaid internships and entitlement deserve additional attention.  Cheers, Kat





Featured image via Tumblr

Leave a Comment


  • Interesting post. I myself have had a fair share of internships and although I relate to what you’re saying, most of the people I’ve encountered are all about the hustle as well. It’s an interesting epidemic though.

    Xx Taylor

  • Love this, Kat! I have found that entitlement is the quickest path to being unhappy and bitter. A great attitude, smile and a commitment to honoring your word is what I try and bring to work with me everyday.

  • I agree that the younger generation does have a sense of entitlement, which is really unfortunate. It’s something that I think a lot about as I start my own family, and how I want to raise my children (no participation trophies please, or too much false praise). That being said, I do think that employers tend to take advantage of interns. It’s just as much of a problem these days as the sense of entitlement, and I do think there needs to be a balance: those seeking an internship understanding that they are seeking experience that shouldn’t be handed to them on a silver platter, and employers understanding that interns ARE NOT free labor. I know of other wedding planners that use unpaid interns on the day of weddings – 16 hours, on your feet, sometimes doing things like clearing away trash. That isn’t what an intern is meant to do; the benefit should land on the intern, so that they can GROW in their career. There has to be a mutual understanding that everyone works hard to get where they are, and that nobody is entitled to anything without hustling. It’s just the way the world works.

  • LOVE THIS! Thx

  • When you have no experience – you must find the slightest opportunity to learn something, learn more. Choose grains from the big ocean. An internship, this is a practice and a young specialist should use this chance to become a professional. When the internship passes the boundaries of the labor code – it is necessary to solve this problem immediately, because further litigation will not allow to develop as a professional.

  • Thank you, Kat. I do agree with every word.

Copyright © Welcome by Waiting on Martha  /
Back to Top