Thursday, December 10, 2009

You own nothing here

At the conclusion of a meeting the other day, I recommended to my team that they should use my office as a conference room when I’m on travel. With the amount of international travel I do, the office was being wasted. It is a valuable resource and should be utilized as such.

The team looked at me like I was from another planet. I shared with them that I do not own the office, the company does. It happens to be assigned to me and it should be used like any other company asset. While the concept was foreign to the team, they appreciated the gesture. It has been a few weeks and I doubt anyone has taken my offer yet. This whole situation caused me to wonder what it is that makes executive leaders categorize “things” as entitlements and something of their own. I think the team believes it is a sign of respect to give their leadership space, but this should not be at the expense of productivity.

What do you believe causes this entitlement mentality? Can a single leader change it?


Thomas Waterhouse said...

What do you believe causes this entitlement mentality? > In brief, immaturity and a lack of spiritual vision. Psychologically speaking, some people define their worth by "externals", and so territoriality is a natural outgrowth of this self-view. I think effective leaders have an "internal locus or center of worth" and mature spirituality. This is the foundation of a "stewardship" versus "ownership" mentality... even f they own the company! Very thought-provoking... thanks!

Unknown said...

Entitlement mentality can be summed up by one word - ego. And yes I believe a single leader can change this mentality by doing what you have just done. Planting the seed. This seed will bear fruit when our youth become leaders and live the inovative thoughts/actions you present today. Thanks John.

Anonymous said...

Great article - and as Gail said - the best way to change the 'egoic' mentality is by example; just as you have done. It's very true that people somehow get caught up in material 'things' as if these things say: "Hey, I'm somebody"!

Anonymous said...

I think the capitalistic way has been that executives tend to have trophy offices as a lot have trophy wives, cars, homes, etc.. The company has inflicted that upon themselves but promoting the trophy way of thinking, often at the expense of the company bottom line.

Mike Farrell said...

I have done it successfully multiple times. People are inherently territorial, and the more territory you claim, the more powerful. However, it's an asset and it might be a precious one. So, I just use the power of my position to make them comfortable in my space and to feel that it's their space as well.

At my last job, people wanted to stand at the attention position when I first got there. Since I was there to run HR, I found that disconcerting. Sit down, and tell me what you need me to do so you can be effective. I did not have a space in there for a conference table, but we all got comfortable using the space as we needed.

The only problem with this is legacy. I left, and I understand they're focusing on real anal retentives as candidates. So, it will be a less comfortable place. If one of my folks walks in and sits down with the new guy/gal/cyborg and they are into making people be uncomfortable as a leadership style -- pure position power -- they'll be injured.

But, I've learned that worrying about what happens when you've left is kind of futile. If I helped them develop the right tools, then they will do great regardless of what little Hitler comes on board. If not, well, try better next time.

The other thing about this kind of change is that you are modeling a behavior. People learn to treat people well -- with dignity, respect and as participants rather than assets or victims -- when the leader models that behavior. So, we can change the world, one silly thing at a time...I think they call that evolution, but I could be wrong.

Randy said...

Funny. During my last tenure as a "working for others" leader, the staff would use my office without asking virtually whenever I was gone (even if clearly just "down the hall") and leave it unkempt.

I announced in a staff meeting that they should feel free to use my office anytime I was absent, since we were cramped for space.

After that announcement NO ONE used my office without asking first!!

Anonymous said...

I agree with Gail. EGO.

The sense of entitlement boosts the EGO of shallow people. If people have nothing else to turn to, they feed their EGO so they don't feel so miserable.

I would also add LACK of MATURITY.

Although the biological age of managers and executives is typically way over 21 years-old, many people still act as if they were 2 years-old... MY toy, MY blanky, MY mommy turned into MY office, MY herman-miller chair, MY employees.

It's a sad state of affairs.

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