Bosses had better use kid gloves when dealing with employees who have a sense of unjustified entitlement, new research shows.
In a study soon to be published in The Leadership Quarterly journal, researchers discovered that employees with higher levels of entitlement were more likely to claim their managers were abusive and that these bosses mistreated the employees.
As part of the study, researchers conducted two surveys. The first queried nearly 400 full-time employees about workplace abuse, while the second survey asked the same questions as the first, but included additional questions that a co-worker of each respondent answered.
Researchers found that when they compared the responses of employees supervised by the same manager, entitled employees were more likely to report higher levels of abuse from their managers, even when their less-entitled co-workers did not.
Paul Harvey, associate professor of organizational behavior at the University of New Hampshire and a co-author of the study, said people who exhibit "psychological entitlement" have unjustified positive self-perceptions. They are reluctant to accept criticism that would undermine their rosy views of themselves. He added that these individuals can be selfish, narcissistic and believe that they deserve many more rewards and much more praise for their work than their performance warrants.
Harvey said that bosses can see significant problems when entitlement fuels inaccurate perceptions of supervisory abuse.
"These managers might find that any critical feedback or unpopular decisions are met with heightened abuse perceptions, impairing their ability to conduct these difficult, but occasionally necessary, aspects of their jobs," he said.
The potential for entitled employees to take retaliatory action could pose a threat to the careers of managers if it provokes abusive behaviors or causes employees to view legitimate managerial behaviors as abusive. Such benign behavior might include giving constructive negative feedback.
"The adage 'perception is reality' may apply in that entitled employees who believe they are abused by supervisors, accurately or inaccurately, will likely respond in negative psychological and behavioral ways," Harvey said. "For this reason, eliminating abusive behaviors by supervisors might not completely eliminate the perception of abuse or the associated emotions and stress that can motivate retaliation by employees."
The research was co-authored by Kenneth Harris from Indiana University Southeast, William Gillis from the University of South Alabama and Mark Martinko from the University of Queensland.
Originally published on BusinessNewsDaily.