Help! My employee always seems SOOO ungrateful!

This is a question I get asked a lot by clients, and it’s a topic that often comes up on professional networking sites.

In my role as a virtual HR director, I see and hear examples of employees acting out when they don’t believe they’re getting what they deserve. I also witness small business owners adding fuel to the fire by creating a culture of entitlement and ungratefulness.

It’s a complex topic. But one that’s very real and disruptive for leaders and employees alike. The good news is that you CAN minimise its impact on your business. And instead, create a place where people feel happy and grateful for the opportunity to work for and with you.

Read on to find out more 👇

KNOW THE NUANCES

In this blog, we talk about two related but different things:

👉Gratitude 🙏

In other words, an employee expressing thanks. For example, showing gratitude for a new opportunity you’ve presented them with.

👉Entitlement 🙍

In other words, an employee that believes they deserve something, because of who they are. For example, a promotion.

Employees who are grateful are less likely to feel like they’re owed something. And, there’s heaps of evidence to show that workplaces that ‘practice’ gratitude, have higher levels of productivity, engagement, and attendance.

WHY IT’S EVEN A PROBLEM 

Managing an employee who continually feels they’re entitled to more than they get, is a challenge. It’s time-consuming, exhausting, and can have a toxic effect on your business.

Of course, it often depends what their beef is. If they believe they should be paid more, but you can’t afford it, there’s not a lot you can do. But, if an employee feels like they should be allowed to work from home because they’re not customer-facing, then perhaps they have a point?

This is the real challenge for you as a leader 👉 Sussing out whether your employee is making a realistic plea. Or whether you think they just act like they have a God-given birth right. You also need to think about how the decisions you make, will impact on the rest of your team 🤔

RECOGNISING THE UNGRATEFUL AND ENTITLED

The Cambridge Dictionary definition of ‘entitled’ is: “Feeling that you have the right to do or have what you want without having to work for it or deserve it, just because of who you are.”

When small business owners talk to me about their “ungrateful and entitled employee” what exactly do they mean?

To bring it to life for you, they often describe the following behaviours:

😒 COMPLAINING LOADS

Their employee is pre-occupied with complaining about their own situation. With little consideration for the rest of the team, or the business as a whole. Except to compare for ‘fairness’ purposes. For example, they regularly describe how they’re not getting the hours THEY want, but Joe Bloggs is.

🙅 NEVER SATISFIED

Their employee doesn’t appear to be motivated by the benefits or rewards they do get. For example, they display apathy when they get a pay rise.

🗣 DISRUPTIVE

Their employee bad-mouths the business and the boss, causing negative vibes amongst team members.

Is this something you can relate to? 🤔

ARE YOU THE PROBLEM? 😱

An entitlement culture amongst your workforce could be down to your behaviour, or your business decisions. So, make sure you’re clear and consistent about how you treat your staff.

A brilliant way to communicate what your employees should expect from you – and what you in turn expect from them – is through your employee handbook. Essentially, it’s a collection of HR policies that spell out how you do business. An employee handbook will also help you to treat all your employees in the same way. To find out more about employee handbooks, take a peek at a previous blog I wrote.

If you don’t already have an employee handbook, it’s never too late to introduce one. Feel free to visit my online shop to get your hands on one today.

BE A SPORADIC REWARD GIVER

Are you guilty of rewarding your team too often? I’m talking M&S sandwiches every time you have a meeting? Or, throwing vouchers at staff who are simply doing their job?

It’s just less special when it becomes the norm, right?

Instead, you should reward your people for going above and beyond, and do it more sporadically – so it’s a genuine surprise for them when it happens 🎉

SPOT THE PROBLEM FROM THE GET-GO 👀

When you’re recruiting, interviews are the perfect opportunity to judge a person’s expectations of the job you’re advertising, and the workplace in which they could potentially be joining.

By asking the right questions, you might be able to spot a problematic candidate, and avoid hiring them in the first place! This is particularly important if they’ve come from a big corporate organisation, that has a big employee perk budget 💷💷💷

For a bank of questions to ask at interviews. And questions you should NEVER ask, check out my INTERVIEWING TOOLKIT.

PRACTICE GRATITUDE IN YOUR BUSINESS 🙏

Naturally, a way to overcome the ungratefulness of an employee, is to build a culture of gratitude. A place where you celebrate success, regularly thank one other, are grateful for the opportunities you have, reward fairly, and recognise those who go above and beyond what’s required. Simples!

TO SUM THINGS UP THEN

☹ It’s common for small business owners to feel weighed down by ungrateful and entitled employees.

⏰ It’s such a time and energy sapper. And, it can create a toxic atmosphere in your company.

👀 But, what do entitled or ungrateful employees look like? Well, there are key behaviour traits to look out for.

🤔 It’s worth asking yourself if you’re the cause of the problem. Your actions could be making things worse.

📕 Employee handbooks are a great way to spell out what you expect from your employees, and what they can expect from you.

😲 Remember to recognise your staff with unplanned rewards, so they don’t take things for granted.

🗣 And, to prevent recruiting ungrateful and entitled people in the first place, ask the right interview questions.

👍 Of course, creating a culture of gratitude is a great way to counteract the ungrateful people too.

Feel free to book a free consultation with me if you have questions, or I can help you in anyway. 



Mandy Hamerla

Mandy Hamerla​


Virtual HR Director & Leadership Mentor. I create game-changing HR & Hiring Strategies for ambitious small businesses in the UK and support you to lead your team with confidence. Check out my shop to download HR Templates & Contracts designed to make life easier. 

​www.modernhr.co.uk