Oct 31, 2013

With roots steeped rich in Celtic, Roman Catholic, and Protestant tradition, the annual Trick?or?Treat ritual that takes place this week can be traced back centuries.

Originally, children would adorn hand?made ceremonial costumes and go door?to?door singing out “a trick for a treat!” Then they’d entertain their neighbors with carefully rehearsed songs, skits, and dances.

If they performed well, the neighbor might reward them with some bread, fruit, or nuts. This encouraged the children to perform at their best knowing that rewards were reserved for those who went above and beyond.

What happens when “for” becomes “or”

Fast forward to Halloween 2013. Your doorbell will ring and a handful of costumed kids will be gathered on your porch. As you open the door, they’ll shout “Trick?or?treat!”

But you know that this is not an “either-or” proposition.

If you were to politely ask these youngsters to entertain you as compensation for the chocolate bar you’re about to place in their sacks, you’d undoubtedly receive looks of amazement and howls of protest. Then, if you refused to ante up a treat, you might awaken the next morning to discover that your house had been revisited by scorned pre-teens armed with eggs and toilet paper.

It’s only natural for today’s employers to be agitated by the entitlement mentality that has permeated the workforce. The traditional “what can I do to add value that will justify me earning a bigger reward?” mindset has been completely overtaken by “if that’s all you’re offering, then I’ll do just enough to avoid getting fired while I look for another job” approach to work.

Changing tactics to manage today’s workers

Most mature employers remember how hard they had to work to rise through the ranks and become the boss, and they begrudge those that approach them with bags open in full expectation of a treat after performing even the most nominal trick.

123RF Stock Photo
123RF Stock Photo

Look, there hasn’t been a “trick-for-treater” since your great, great grandpa was in diapers, so wanting to get as much as possible for as little effort as possible is nothing new, and certainly not an attitude that is unique to Millennials.

Let go of any resentment you may be holding for your new hires based on your preconceived notions of their entitlement mindset. As the popular saying goes, “it is what it is.”

Obviously, the old traditional employment equation has not only changed since you entered the workforce, it’s been radically transformed. The only question is this: how will you adjust your strategies and tactics to effectively manage this rapidly evolving approach to work?

Coach, and be clear what you want

First, understand that today’s workers demand transparency and expect to know what rewards (your treats) will come their way when they meet and/or exceed your expectations (their tricks). Unlike you, they aren’t going to keep their nose to the grindstone in hopes that it all works out in the end. So be clear in specifically articulating what you want them to do — and what they will receive as a result.

Secondly, coach them to be appreciative. Your biggest frustration may actually stem not from how much they expect, but from them forgetting to thank you after you’ve gone to the wall to deliver it for them.

Your parents ingrained into your psyche those two magic phrases: “please” and “thank you,” but it’s a safe bet that theirs didn’t. So, take the time to teach them that expressing sincere, selfless, eyeball-to-eyeball appreciation is not only the basis of great customer service, but it’s the right thing to do. More importantly, it will also enable them to keep their co-workers and managers firmly in their corner.

This was originally published on Eric Chester’s Reviving Work Ethic blog. His new book is Reviving Work Ethic: A Leader’s Guide to Ending Entitlement and Restoring Pride in the Emerging Workforce. For copies, visit