Dealing with young entitled employees


QUESTION: On workplace mental health, the younger 'entitled' employees are almost making me go crazy. How do I deal with their entitlement and disregard for work rules? I cannot afford to lose them because retraining new employees takes time.


In the hope that I have understood the thrust of your question, I will attempt to deal with it by telling you about several of the most entitled young men, illustrate how they dealt with their positions to thrive as others failed.

The Kennedy family in the US is one of the most famous of recent times and for that reason best studied and written about. Theirs is a family that has for at least three generations stayed in the limelight, sometimes for the right reasons at others not so.

In his book about the patriarch of the family (John Patrick Kennedy) the author Ronald Kessler, describes the life and times of the man who had the greatest influence in the US in the early part of the 20th century.

He became a close friend of President Franklin Roosevelt. His three children ended up in the Senate at different times and one, J.F. Kennedy became the 35th President. His grandsons, (Patrick J Kennedy) recently wrote a book on his struggle with bipolar mood disorder, which was described by one reviewer of the book, A Common Struggle as “A stunningly unvarnished portrait of one of America’s most private public families”.

Both books are worth reading if only because they attempt to deal with the issues that you raise. John P Kennedy for example was at one time one of the wealthiest Americans during the years of the first and second world wars.

He made a huge fortune as the first chair of the stock exchange, in real estate, and during the prohibition of the sale of alcohol in the US, was the biggest (illegal) distributor of whiskey.

As ambassador in London at the onset of the second world war, he held direct links with Hitler, at the time holding the view that democracy in the UK had come to an end a course that would soon take place in the US.

Despite all these achievements, he was a desperately unhappy man at home, and he treated both his wife and disabled daughter with a total lack of respect for human dignity. He was a terribly corrupt man determined to ensure that his children reached the highest offices in the land. To this end, he “bought” his son J.F. Kennedy a place in Harvard by making a huge financial donation.

Tragedy would characterise the lives of the second generation. Two of his sons JFK and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated early in their careers while Ted, according to his son’s book, led a miserable life and did not get on well with his alcoholic wife.

The picture drawn by his grandson Patrick J Kennedy of his life with bipolar mood disorder is most graphic and leads to the conclusion that there was heavy genetic loading for mood disorders in that family tree. So, in this case, the possible reason of the difficulties encountered might have been on account of genetic makeup which itself has environmental impacts.

The other well-known and entitled family about which adequate information is available to the reading public is that of the House of Windsor. John Oliver in his book Britain on the Couch describes the state of sadness and loneliness that has characterised the family of Her Majesty the Queen over the years ending with her describing 1992 as her annus Horribilis.

More recently, her son Andrew, and grandson Harry stepped down as working Royals under great clouds of embarrassment to the Royal family.

In Kenya and Africa in general, the first generation of liberated and educated men seemed to bear children that failed to achieve the greatness of their fathers. Most of them had grown up with a sense of entitlement and failed either to complete their education as envisaged by their mostly well-educated fathers or when they got jobs, failed to move the empires set for them to the next generation.

This lengthy story is the background to my understanding of the question you have put before us today.

It is, however, an oversimplification of a most complex matter because each family with entitled children has its own dynamics and further each entitled young person has his own unique personality and this, plus genes and environment in which they are brought up will have a great impact on the challenges that you as a work colleague will be confronted with.

Put differently, there is no simple or universally right or wrong way of dealing with your most challenging situation, and each must be dealt with according to the merits of his case!