Irrational Entitlement: No matter where I’m working, I always feel like I’m being taken for granted, and that I deserve better.

I read an article today called Dude, where’s my job? – What happens when the most entitled generation ever hits a recession.  In a sentence, it’s about how recent college graduates expect to have their pick of limitless career opportunities, and are completely unprepared for the economic crisis.

The entire article summarized a lot of what I’ve thought and experienced since I graduated in 2003, but what really resonated with me was the following quote:

They expect to go to college, to make lots of money, and perhaps even to be famous.  Unfortunately, there’s a fine line between optimism and confidence, and irrational entitlement.

Irrational Entitlement.  I’ve never had anyone lay those words out there for me before, and now that I’ve heard them, I can’t help but think that maybe I’ve been living my life with an irrational sense of entitlement.

I grew up hearing comments like “You know computers? You’re gonna be the next Bill Gates!” — “Computer Science?  You’ll be rich, kid!” — “You’re a genius. There’s no doubt in my mind that you’ll be successful no matter what you do.”  Consequently, I have this expectation that the world will deliver on these promises that have been spoon-fed to me since the start of high school.

My first job didn’t make me rich.  I felt like that was normal, so I was okay with it — until I learned how my skills set and hard work was making my boss rich, which caused me to quit.

I tried doing freelance computer work, where I quickly learned that people don’t want to pay the computer guy to fix their home computer.  I found another day job where I was being taken advantage of, and the “become unhappy, find another job” cycle continued.  This behavior is mentioned in the article:

It only makes sense that the environment in which they were raised would inform what they expected from a job—namely, flexibility, authority, instant respect and continuous affirmation. (This is a generation, after all, in which seven out of 10 rank themselves “above average” in academic ability.) “They’re not going to put up with the ‘paying your dues’ and being in the mailroom for the first three years,” says Rothberg. “In their mind it’s, ‘I graduated. I’ve always succeeded. I’ve always got a trophy for everything I’ve done. All of my friends and everyone I know is above average, so when I go into a place of work, I’m either going to set that place on fire or they’re not good enough for me and I’m out of there.’ “

It describes me to a T.  I think that I’m hot shit because I graduated in the top 10 of my class. I think that I’m hot shit because I received a bunch of scholarships and awards. I think I’m hot shit because I was President of the National Honor Society, I graduated college with a 4.0 GPA, I finished the four-year Computer Science Curriculum in only three years, and I graduated Summa Cum Laude with program distinction by age 20.  For a long time I believed that employers would be lucky to hire me, and would be knocking down my front door trying to do so.

This recession has taught me better.  It took six months of hardcore job hunting to find my most recent job.  Nearly all of the job postings I saw during my job hunt had a long, bulleted list of high-level requirements, but only offered minimum wage. After six months at my current job, I’ve learned to suck it up and deal with long hours in a short-staffed environment since at least I have a job.

Still, it’s hard to change your mantra from “I deserve better” to “It could always be worse.”  I’ve always been one to suggest that if you want something, then you should have it.  Consequently, letting go of what just might be “Irrational Entitlement” feels like giving up hope.

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10 Responses to “Irrational Entitlement: No matter where I’m working, I always feel like I’m being taken for granted, and that I deserve better.”

#1 Problemsolverblog on 15, Jan, 2009 at 11:00 am

I didn’t see any research on whether this generation is more entitled than any other. I think that every older generation thinks the younger generation is more entitled, lazy etc. As someone with a degree in psychology, I think that “entitlement” is just developmental.

Think about it, if you were just 18 or 21 years old and had to go out into the big, wide world feeling completely incompetent and lost you’d never take a step out of your parent’s house. You’d be immobile.

Humans were built with this youthful exuberance so that we’d actually go out and do something and learn stuff and then realize twenty years later how stupid we were.

Don’t bother yelling at the younger generation. We (I’m in my 40s) used to be them and that’s how we got where we are now. I knew everything in my twenties. I realized as I got older that I was getting stupider and stupider as I figured out how much more there was in the world than I knew about.

#2 John Comberiate on 15, Jan, 2009 at 11:12 am

I too have the same feelings. While I don’t have the list of accomplishments you do (although I did finish a CS degree in 3 years, just not with a 4.0 GPA), I’ve worked hard for all of my accomplishments so I feel like I should be getting a proportional amount back.

What I’ve learned though is that, just like an athlete dominating in college and then going to the professional league, you’re now competing with the best in the world, and they have years on you. So while you were the best in the little pool, now you’re playing in the biggest pool out there, and it’s going to take that same time, effort and dedication to get to the top again.

The hardest part is shifting your perception not to accept how things are, but to realize that you’ve been in this spot before and you made it to the top then, you can make it back again. It is going to take the same drive and effort but the results aren’t going to come back as quickly this time. The nice thing though, if you do make it back to the top, the rewards will be that much better.

For more proof of this, I suggest picking up a copy of Malcolm Gladwell’s new book ‘Outliers’.

#3 Steve on 17, Jan, 2009 at 6:25 pm

I find it’s not so much as “I deserve better” but “I deserve fair”…

In my experience everyone except the “Gods of the Ivory tower” (V.P.’s and CEO’s, CFO’s, etc.) are asked to perform more and more taks for less and less money and time…

There are still companies out there (very few mind you) that treat people with respect and fairness…But as you would expect new positions rarely open in those companies due to well deserved loyalty.

Maybe I am a “little” off-topic but I just wanted to share with you..:-)

Be Good to Yourselves,


#4 Deb Estep on 18, Jan, 2009 at 12:22 pm

Interesting article you’ve written. It looks like teaching
corporate America to adjust might be a new field of it’s own.

Thought these might be of interest to you. 🙂

The Age Of The Millenials

They are young adults and have been coddled by their parents to the point of being ill prepared for a demanding workplace. Morley Safer reports on the generation called “Millenials.”

May 26, 2008


Mary Crane, a nationally recognized speaker and trainer, helps bridge the gaps in today’s workplaces


My Reality Check Bounced

#5 CerebralMagpie on 19, Jan, 2009 at 10:49 pm

Utter BOLLOCKS that the likes of you and I are acting anywhere “entitled”. We come to work and get the job done while everyone else is off on one of their undetermined number of coffee breaks.

You make me wanna cry, you’re so on the same wavelength as me. Bollocks to this wage slave BS, I say. Bollocks.

#6 Grbup on 21, Jan, 2009 at 10:16 pm

It’s odd you blame your attitude.

If you really have the qualifications that you list, then you ought to be highly valuable to a business.

If someone has a 4.0 GPA and has one numerous scholarships and still can’t find a job, that’s not exactly their fault. There’s a serious problem in the system. You invested years of work and labour into getting the qualifications you have – doesn’t it make sense that they should actually lead somewhere? Otherwise, why should anyone bother getting good grades, scholarships, etc.. Why should one even bother going to school?

The fault isn’t your attitude. The fault is that the lower classes (i.e. the bottom 90%) are getting screwed. They make less and have fewer opportunities. Why? Not because the money’s not there – there’s plenty of wealth in this nation. It’s the wealthiest nation in the world by far. It’s that the upper 10% don’t want to share any of that wealth. They want workers to be desperate, passive, submissive, and blaming themselves. That’s the truth.

#7 PB on 21, Jan, 2009 at 11:47 pm

I hear ya man. I’m stuck in a job right now I absolutely dread. I planned on it being a part time gig to help me get through school. I wake up in the morning and on the days I have to work I think “F**K I have to go to work.” A job I absolutely positively hate. Mainly because of my management and the fact that I get hounded about my performance (they really push us to sell replacement plans since that’s how management gets their bonuses and trips to the Bahamas yet we who sell it don’t see another dime) and lets face it with the economy the way it is people aren’t buying like they used to.

I’ve been there two years; longer than anyone, I know everything there is to know about the job and do it well better than the managers and I still get walked over. I would quit but as you talked about; I’m lucky to have a job at this point and it’s a paycheck.

#8 Billy on 24, Feb, 2009 at 9:52 am

It’s a sad fact that today you will always be taken advantage of and never earn decent money by working for someone else, especially if you desire a life outside of work.
In order to earn decent money and get true job satisfaction you have to find what self employed professions earn good money and then decide what one you could do each day. Some you will need to do training for and others (very surprisingly) you won’t, they will all involve good old fashioned honest hard work though. These jobs won’t have the glamour but they earn solid amounts of money – just look around your local area at the nice houses (especially in the UK) a large majority are owned by builders and other manual labour professions, Licensed London Taxi Drivers (if you live anywhere near London) and various other self employed businesses. Take it from me, I too was a graduate worked in the graphic design industry for 12 years, was sold many a false promise from employers and never earned decent money and yet was at the top of my profession – doesn’t make sense does it? Yet I’m happier, live a much more luxurious lifestyle and actually have quality time with my family now after becoming a self employed domestic plumber! Certainly not glamorous but it pays three times as much as my old job and for less hours worked. Hope my story helps you all.

#9 TAM on 24, Mar, 2009 at 3:10 am

I really like your blog. I have read a few of the posts. 🙂

I wonder if I am delusional too but I never thought I deserved something so great. I just wanted fair. I am a minority so I wanted a place free of racial harassment. I am a female so I wanted to not be called “baby” in an office setting by someone who is not my boyfriend. I have several degrees so I wanted to be paid what a job advertised on the internet, not 5 or 10K less once they see who I am. I wanted the space to learn and grow so I did not want to be micromanaged. I wanted a cost of living increase or one based on good performance so I wanted to receive the raise and performance reviews promised to me upon original hire. I wanted to be treated with respect so I wanted to be able to close my office door and work in peace. If these desires are too much, I…don’t know what to say. But I know I am turning 30 and don’t have anything in my reserve of energy to endure any more of this, whether someone would call it abuse or not, I don’t know. I do know that everyday I am wishing and praying that my alternative career that I have been pursuing in the arts can fully thrive so that I never have to be treated this way again. The thought of entering another corporation brings me to tears.

Even where I thought I would work after completing my masters in 08 is not panning out the way it was supposed to (college instructor…the subject I was originally supposed to teach some schools got rid of and now some want a PhD and I only have a Masters). I know some people will post that people like me or people who want to work in the arts should just get over it and just suffer because that is how life is. Life in most people’s view is supposed to be painful, stressful and border line torture. Maybe so, but my mom was only 48 when she passed away. Her experiences were different from mine but I just want to reach age 60 at minimum. I don’t know how to live unhappy like so many people do. I know when I am not at companies and working in art, traveling or with my close friends and family I am happiest. I guess I am just afraid that wanting to be happy is really asking too much and afraid that what I call mistreatment in the workplace is the norm.

#10 Vince on 14, May, 2012 at 8:07 am

Just been reading your comments and think that some of you perhaps wasted time beyong high schoolat 16 when you may have done better to sweep floors and make tea and learn trade skills on the job. Then you would’ve been that far ahead on the promotion ladder before all the uni grads.
You were sold a false promise of a degree guarenteeing you some sort of “good” job.
Also, its not just you guys that feel somewhat “entitled” to a better deal. I go into work feeling that most days because im a part-time store cleaner but I know I could do a better job if I could find one out there in this economy. To PB: Similar situation with me and the no-bonus thing. I work for a large contractor who deals with the store(a huge supermarket chain across the UK) and we have to wear the stores uniform, greet customers like store employees and their staff get a bonus evey year of about 2 weeks wages and we get zilch. I was mystery shopped and got a low score for not following the store’s “happy to help” bullet points and I said that if im going to be judged like an employee, maybe i should get a bonus if they get one too.

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