The Antidote to Complacency and Entitlement in the Workplace

Two of the biggest challenges confronting workplaces in 2020 are complacency and entitlement.

While there are many external factors that can affect how someone feels and thinks, complacency and entitlement are direct reflections of one’s mindset which has less to do with external conditions and more to do with how one interprets and makes sense of the situations in which they find themselves.

Therefore, building your mindset is critical. Your mindset is derived from your beliefs and attitudes about the world and it determines how you show up in the world – as an HR Practitioner, Parent, Spouse, Community Leader, whatever.

The solution to complacency and entitlement, I believe, lies in a study by Scott Kaufman which found the barometer of a thriving mindset resides in one’s ability to be grateful. Of the 24 positive character strengths that lead to human flourishing, gratitude was found to be the best single predictor of human flourishing. Gratitude is a very simple yet under utilized leadership skill, particularly in the workplace – one study found 60 per cent of people express gratitude at work two or fewer times per year – this comes from the same group of people, of whom 81 per cent said, they would work harder for a more grateful boss.

Researchers have found gratitude leads to more civility in the workplace. And while research on gratitude specifically in the workplace is in its infancy, it is time to bring more gratitude to work, that is, if we truly want to create thriving, innovative and productive workplaces where people are fully engaged and love coming to work.

3 Things You Can Do

Therefore as a HR leader it is incumbent on you to:

  1. Learn more about gratitude
  2. Embrace gratitude as a practice  
  3. Intentionally incorporate grateful leadership into your mindset

The Relationship Between Gratitude, Complacency & Entitlement

Steve Foran will be speaking at the HR Conference & Expo in Vancouver on April 28, 2020.

Whether at work or at home, or any given situation in which you find yourself, you can be in one of three possible states of gratitude:

  • Grateful – This is when you focus on the good in the situation, aware of what others have done and aware of how you have benefited.
  • Ungrateful – This is when you are unaware of the particulars of the situation (what others have done, how you’ve benefited, etc). You basically take it for granted, and are completely unaware you’re doing so.
  • Ingrateful – This is when you focus on the negative in the situation, believing that others have acted to harm you, disregarding or discounting any benefits you have received as inconsequential or you rationalize that the benefits were provided to make you feel indebted to give something in return.

Connecting these states of gratefulness to complacency and entitlement, we find that complacency is the symptom of an ungrateful mindset as is entitlement from an ingrateful mindset. Of course, grateful is the signature of a flourishing, thriving mindset.

Therefore, to rid the workplace of complacency and entitlement, we need to help people build a more grateful, thriving mindset.

Take-away

This strategy is simple but it is not easy and it will take time. Resist the temptation to think of a colleague or employee who needs more gratitude and begin the journey of building a more grateful culture by strengthen your mindset.

Your first step is simple – start a gratitude journal (paper or electronic, whatever works best for you) and each day list three things you’re grateful for. Don’t underestimate the simplicity of a gratitude journal. Do it for 30 days and notice the change in yourself. If you already record your gratitudes daily, I challenge you to take your habit to the next level – feel free to email me at steve@gratitudeatwork.ca if you’d like some ideas on how to amp up your gratitude journalling.

Your next step – attend my session, It’s Time to Thrive, at the 2020 conference on April 28 at 1:45 PM.

In the meantime time, please let me know if there’s anything I can do to support you. 


Steve Foran, CEO, founded Gratitude at Work in 2007 and started hosting conversations in his community, which have since grown into work with leaders across Canada and into the United States, shifting cultures, helping leaders and their teams bring more gratitude to work each day.  In 2019, Steve published his first book, Surviving to Thriving – The 10 Laws of Grateful Leadership, which is 1 of 8 recommended reads for summer 2019 by Greater Good Science Center at University of California Berkeley. 

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