Diane Lee was appalled to discover I had a sense of entitlement. Read why in this essay.

On entitlement, work and career

To my horror*, I have recently discovered that I have a sense of entitlement. If I examine where it comes from, I can see it’s premised on my education and being smart. I have several degrees, and when I work, I bring my education and my knowledge to the cubicle. I have to, because it’s in my DNA to perform well and take in new challenges. I always give my job 100% and I err on the side of doing the right thing for the organisation.

The organisation, of course, benefits from my knowledge, my ambition, my wanting to do a good job and doing the best for it in terms of outcomes. I am paid a wage (not high, but not low either) in order to ensure I keep the cogs turning. And there is always the dangling carrot of “promotion”, “status” and “more money” that also motivates me, because I know I am worth more than where I currently sit in the organisation’s structure. I always and invariably punch above my weight.

And that’s the hole I find myself in.

I have come to realise that my education and my default position of doing a good job gives me a peculiar sense of entitlement. I’m not a manager, but I believe I could be. I’m not in a leadership role, but I know I could do a better job than most people who are in leadership roles in the workplaces I find myself. I have the education, the experience, the ambition and drive to be an asset to the organisation. And the fact that I am frequently overlooked is disheartening. I ask myself time and again: why am I overlooked, and why is my career not further advanced? Why are other, less capable people, my boss?

And that’s where my sense of entitlement kicks in. And I have a sneaking suspicion that this sense of entitlement makes me difficult to work with. I judge, compare, berate and sneer because I want more from the workplace than it is prepared to give me. I am smart and educated and results driven, ergo I believe I am owed more than what I get. I am cranky because what I think should happen, doesn’t. I should be leading and being paid a whole lot more than I currently am to do so. I find myself in a entitlement trap where my expectations around work are just not met.

The only way out of this entitlement trap that I can see is to dilute the effects of working in just one workplace. For some time, I having been thinking about the benefits of portfolio work, that is, to have three or so part-time jobs and several income streams. In other words, I need to opt out of the whole notion of “having a career” that seems to go hand in hand with “having an education” and just focus on income.

So. In my permanent public service job, I am going to cut my hours back to 3 days a week. That will be my “bread and butter” wage. Then I will look around for other income streams. Maybe it’s freelance writing, editing or training. Maybe it’s working behind a bar a couple of nights a week. I’d be happy to do admin, or work in a cafe or bookshop. I’m not sure what my income stream will look like.

What I do know is that unless changes are made in how I approach work, my sense of entitlement will eat me alive.

* I thought I was immune. In fact, I only thought people in management positions had this malady. You know the ones: they feel that even though they have a six figure salary and a company car, they are still owed more.


I’ve had a rethink on my approach, after talking to a number of public servants who find themselves in a similar situation to me. The key is not to go into a job in a different agency blind – one needs to try before one buys (which is the case with most things). My other approach is to take short term contracts, at a higher level if I can, with my permanent, albeit lower paid, job as my back up plan. That way I will always have an escape route if the department I find myself in is Dodgey City.

Photo credit: little*star via Visualhunt / CC BY-ND

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Collection 4: Working It Out of the Love & Other Brave Acts (Essays on Courage for Fearless and Fabulous Living) series is all about work, workplaces and organisational culture.If you liked this post, then you’ll love my collection of essays about work.

Part memoir, part analysis of workplace culture, I consider the world of work and the definition of career success. And anyone who has found themselves disillusioned about the progress of their career—and that’s a lot of us!—will relate to this book.

Grab your copy of Collection 4: Working is Out  from the Amazon Kindle Store for .99c.

(If you want even more value for money, you can now get all 6 books from the Love & Other Brave Acts series for $4.99. Just saying.)

13 thoughts on “On entitlement, work and career

  1. People who know you don’t think much of them always pick up on it. Ergo, stalled career. The schmoozers get ahead a lot faster by massaging the right (insecure) egos. Twas ever thus.

    1. I am looking forward to it, Gary. A few years ago, I worked three days a week and really enjoyed the time I had away from workplace. I found I was more productive when I was at work, so everyone benefits.

  2. A year or two ago I used to feel I was “entitled” to a job because I know I’m usually good at whatever I take on, but now I believe I’ll have to start near the bottom again if someone will give me a chance. However, I got so disheartened when I was juggling several jobs & people wanted me to spend more time “for free” in the workplace because I was getting a senior casual rate. After getting the sack because a boss discovered that I had discovered HER plagiarism of my contract work for another NGO, I became very depressed. I find that editing/contract writing/proofing are OK when I have them, but are too unpredictable to derive a decent income. Therefore, if you’re going multi-part time you need to be really postitive & be out there connecting & promoting yourself [like Charlie/Helen Robinson- if you know her!). I just can’t do that any more, but you have a good place to start from!

    1. I hear you! I worked as a consultant a few years ago, but got quite disheartened for exactly the reasons you state and ended up going back to full-time work. I’ve always had a tumultuous relationship with working full-time, though. I’m thinking that a day’s training would work well and coupled with three days a week as a public servant, would give me a decent income. The jewel in the crown, of course, would be to have an income from my own writing. I am so sorry that you were sacked, by the way. Workplaces are quite often akin viper’s nests.

  3. We all suffer form this malady in varying degrees. Our ego will not allow otherwise. Know this, you are among friends and the support is there if you need or call for it. Good luck in your journey and let me know if I can help in any way.

  4. Many paragraphs of this great article read like you extracted them right out of my head. Definitely an article I will come back to read time and time again!

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