What does an Easter egg hunt have to do with employee entitlement? Plenty.
You see, an entitlement mentality is not innate, rather it’s learned and often ingrained into an individual. It stems from multiple experiences of an individual getting something for nothing, leading them to believe they are deserving and should have what they want without putting forth the effort that is normally required to produce that result.
This cognitive conditioning usually begins at an early age.
An egg hunt gone bad
Last year, a community Easter Egg Hunt in Old Colorado City (near Colorado Springs) got so out of hand that event organizers have decided to scrap the event this year.
According to the story, a large number of parents were so determined to make certain their children got as many eggs as they could from the thousands that were spread across the park that they pushed and shoved other parents, and even blocked the path of other children who were trying to get eggs.
You can almost hear the thinking of the frenzied and overaggressive parents, “Manners and common courtesy be damned! My kid’s gonna get a basketful or no one will!”
In addition to putting on a disgraceful exhibition of behavior (and that’s a story in itself), the parents who did the hunting for their kids implanted the belief within their child that they are more special and deserving than other kids. Thus, they are entitled to the things they want, regardless of the effort put forth.
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A hard, but valuable, life lesson
If I were there with my 4-year-old granddaughter, I would have wanted her to get a basketful of eggs, too. I would have felt it unfair had some bigger kid gotten in her way, and I would have had a hard time restraining myself had another parent interfered with this children’s activity. So I am trying to channel the wisdom of my father and imagine how he would have handled this when I was a kid.
But stories like this one just didn’t happen 30 plus years ago. Of course, that’s back before the invention of the “participation trophy,” and back when all Little League games kept score so the players knew which team won and, more importantly, why.
My dad loved me enough to let me go ‘eggless’ – if that’s what my hunting effort yielded. Instead of pushing other parents out of the way, it was he who got out of the way when life was about to teach me a hard, but valuable lesson. He never confronted a teacher who gave me a bad grade, a coach who wouldn’t put me in the game, or an employer who barked orders at me and refused to give me a day off. He took their side because, ultimately, he was on my side.
Today’s parents want the best for their kids, too. But if they want their kids to grow into responsible adults and employees who can achieve the best results on their own, they’ll need to let the kid learn to find their own eggs in life, even when the hunt gets really chaotic and challenging.
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 revivingworkethic.com.