The current dominant theme you will face as both an employer and health care provider is one of entrenched, unconscious entitlement. Entitlements have been a part of our social and legal landscape for a long time, but this feature has grown and become progressively more crippling and destructive to the normal course of business.
Entitlement means a legal claim to receive or to do something, many times relating to money. It’s not the same thing as a right, such as those outlined in the Constitution and Bill of Rights, or in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations post WW2. Human rights are universal concepts we deem to be the basis of the civilized world, those rights that exist simply because you are human.
An entitlement is something altogether different. It can be something legitimate or overt, such as access to the Medicare or Social Security systems. It can also be subtle and disproportional to reality, and this is where it gets in the way.
Entitlement mentality is usually revealed by a few key phrases that start longer thoughts. Common ones are:
- I shouldn’t have to…
- By now, I ought to…
- I deserve…
- That’s not my job…
You may hear these from prospective or present employees, customers, or sometimes from your own inner voice.
These thought patterns arise from discordantly comparing one’s preconceived notions with present reality. That idea by itself does not create problems. It’s when the solution seems to be to demand, threaten, divert or litigate the money away from someone else that problems arise. This concept sees the economics of a situation as a finite, limited pie, and if you get less, then I get more.
The alternative method is to create more value through innovation, invention, higher quality service or just plain hard work. What a quaint idea! We should expand the size of the pie, rather than just grab for what we can get, just do it, buyer beware, etc.?
We are currently getting a painful lesson in the idea that overspending and borrowing from an inflated resource can work for a period of time, but not indefinitely. The idea that we are entitled to expect home values to go up indefinitely is being thoroughly and emphatically disproved.
What to do about this? Remember that when you are swimming against the tide, you have to expend continuous and heavy effort to make changes. You must be vigilant and consistent in recognizing entitlement concepts both internal and external. The best concept is adapted from Tom Freidman:
- Think like an immigrant
- Work like an artisan
An immigrant has no expectations of support from government, social agencies or the public at large. There may be a local social network, but that is of limited scope and strength. The expectation is that you have to work your way to stability and prosperity; no one is just going to hand it to you. Further, you wouldn’t want it to be handed to you anyway!
An artisan is someone who is personally responsible for the quality and utility of the product or service. This concept started disappearing with the industrial revolution, and is now commonplace; many feel like small gears in the big machine. Even if you don’t have control of an entire service or product from start to finish, you do have control and influence over your specific portion. Think of the once-vilified (Control freak! Elitist! Artiste!), now sanctified Steve Jobs. He is probably our best modern example of a larger scale artisan.
If you could work with the expectation that no large-scale body was going to give you anything, and your signature was going to be on every piece of work you produce, how would your work be different?
If you could create that culture in your office, and everyone shared those values, how would your work life be different?