There’s a trick to getting entitled employees to stop complaining and do their jobs

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In three subsequent studies, researchers tried to find out what was motivating entitled people’s disinclination to follow the rules, asking different groups of participants, including undergraduate students in one study, to follow protocols for every day tasks like formatting a report or crossing at a particular spot in the road. The researchers manipulated various hypothetical situations to test several possibilities about why entitled people might be more likely to ignore instructions, based on previous research. Was it because they were more likely to see instructions as a personal inconvenience? Because they were more averse than the average person to being controlled by others? Because they believed they could get away with an ethical or procedural breach?

Then, in the two final studies, the authors set up the task circumstances to test whether entitled people reject instructions they find unfair. Previous studies have found self-important types to be easily offended, and to more often see themselves as being mistreated by others.

And bingo. The final two studies showed a strong association between the personality trait and the likelihood of viewing instructions as unfair, and thus ignoring them.

Complicating matters is the fact that “The World Is Unfair To Me” is a central tenet of entitled people’s worldview. According to authors Emily Zitek, a professor and social psychologist at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, and Alexander Jordan, a psychologist and instructor at Harvard Medical School, this creates a perpetual cycle. Instructions are designed to make life run more smoothly for everyone, not just one person. And so when entitled people ignore the rules, they’re likely to wind up suffering some kind of consequence as a result—which only makes them more likely to see the rules as unjust and thus to ignore them, and so on.