Hiring young "Generation Y" financial planners has its challenges, as today's generation of new financial planners have some fundamentally different views regarding work/life balance and work expectations that will shape how they navigate their careers. While this may simply mean that Gen Y planners make different decisions when faced with some of their life/career trade-offs, an associated challenge is that Gen Y is often viewed as having an "entitlement" attitude - that they want the benefits, without the trade-offs.
In this guest post, Gen Y planner and NAPFA Genesis founder Dave Grant shares some of his experiences with the difficulties of dealing with Gen Y entitlement issues, reflecting on some of his recent challenges with his own entitlement demons that crop up from time to time. From the perspective of someone dealing with the issue themselves, Dave then shares some of his insights about how firm owners can try to handle and address Gen Y entitlement issues, from the perspective of someone who would be on the receiving end of the message!
Of course, ultimately generational stereotypes are just that - a stereotype that does not necessarily represent every unique individual of the generation - so it is not a 'guarantee' that the problem will present itself just because you're hiring or working with young planners. Nonetheless, if you're an advisory firm owner struggling with some younger planners in your firm - or perhaps you are a Gen Y planner dealing with these issues yourself - today's guest post should be helpful for you in trying to think through ways to tackle the issue!
“My name is Dave Grant and I have an entitlement problem.”
Lately, I’ve been in a funk. I am in one of the most exciting times of my career running my start-up RIA, having dreamt and planned for this for over four years, but I’m not excited. Instead, I look at my to-do list begrudgingly and often find myself distracted from work. My initial jump into running my RIA was not without problems, but it’s been six months and those problems are behind me. Being educated in psychology, I have tried to understand what the problem might be, and after a couple of weeks of self-diagnosis in random things, it hit me while I was doing the dishes this morning: I have a horrible case of entitlement.
I’ve been analyzing my thoughts recently:
“Shouldn’t this be easier?”
“Why does it seem like it’s harder for me to find business than it is for other advisors?”
“I’ve told my ideal prospects what I do for a living, why don’t they want to work with me?”
“I have put a lot of work into prepping everything, why is this not growing like I thought it would?”
I’ve even had fleeting thoughts about going back to working for someone else so I don’t have to deal with these thoughts. Don’t worry, those thoughts didn’t last long!
But this morning, my reality hit me. Lots of people tell me they wish they could be doing what I’m doing. Others have opened businesses and struggled for years before they have found any type of success. What makes me think that I should find it so easily? I smiled to myself as this realization hit me, but I also wanted to kick my own a$$ at the same time. I’m being a brat.
But I know these thoughts don’t just belong to me - “Gen Y’ers” are stereotyped with having this attitude. While this association may be correct in some cases, I don’t think that every Gen Y planner has entitlement issues. In fact, I believe it is only the minority who portray these qualities on a consistent basis, and as a result, these people will not be successful. However, I believe that all young planners will have these feelings of entitlement at some point during their career. For some, they will be short-lived, for others it will define their overall behavior.
Before I give tips on how to do deal with entitled planners, lets understand what entitlement is:
There are a lot of resources on entitlement behavior, but someone who nails it is Melody Fletcher of DeliberateReceiving, who produces content discussing Laws of Attraction. While she doesn’t exclusively talk about work relationships, she does sum up what entitlement is in this video. In a work environment, everyone who is ambitious surrounds themselves with positive thoughts and strives to achieve their goals. They use positive mantras such as:
“I want a bigger salary / a promotion / a bigger home / a larger 401(k) balance, etc… and I believe I deserve it.”
By repeating these aspirations, they become ingrained in this person’s psyche and every day tasks start to align with making those goals come true. For someone to achieve all of those things, they would labeled as driven and a “go-getter”. Believing you deserve something isn’t a bad belief to have. But when you add another belief to it, it turns the overall mantra into an entitled behavior pattern.
“I want these things due to the efforts of someone else, with minimal effort on my part, and I want them on a timeline that I design.”
Now that individual has turned into an entitled brat.
It was a shock when I came to the realization that I was thinking this way. I wasn’t prepared for the effort it took to attract, educate and gain clients. The timeline I had originally designed in my financial advisor business plan would start off a lot slower than I had imagined, and I would start to think about giving up. I even thought that as I told other advisors about my niche practice they would send teacher prospects my way without me lifting a finger. It is embarrassing writing these things having come through the other side!
So how should you act when you see entitlement in your organization?
Try to understand
You’ve heard it before – Gen Y grew up in a culture where everyone got trophies, even if they came last. They were praised for just trying things, regardless of if they got things correct.
It’s true - that has happened. I’ll be the first to admit we’re not hardy enough and some of us haven’t had a challenging life where we know what true hard work means. Regardless, this is the culture we have been raised in. We see people from our generation achieve big success - whether it is in technology, social media or Hollywood, and we are led to believe that their journey can be realistically summed up in a 90 second YouTube video. In being able to see this constantly via the Internet, we believe this success is easy to achieve.
If you see this behavior in your peers/staff/colleagues, it doesn’t work to criticize it because that is not going to solve the problem. However, it must be understood that the Gen Y workforce requires different motivators than previous generations. As an owner or manager who may be looking to retain this demographic in the firm, you will need to understand what motivates these Gen Y employees.
There are many articles on this so I won’t try to write something new, but here are some resources:
It took me a while to come to the realization I was battling with feeling entitled. I have even sworn to myself and other people that “being entitled” is not a problem I deal with. Sometimes it sneaks up you! But not every young employee understands that they have this problem, and how it may be easily portrayed in their actions.
Another detriment to always being praised throughout childhood is that criticism is hard to hear and act upon. While a Gen X or Boomer employee may be able to hear criticism and be able to take it constructively, giving this same advice to a young, entitled employee will take a different, more gracious approach.
In order to deal with this, you may want to approach the situation this way: In private with this employee, gently reflect on some of their behavior and have them describe what they were feeling during the situation where the entitlement seemed to be at its worst. After you have given them space to talk and reflect, explain how it looked to an outsider, and what that attitude told you about them. Entitlement is not a behavior that can be fixed with a “clip around the ear” conversation, it needs to be understood and managed with a caring attitude. However, be firm in telling them that this behavior won’t be tolerated.
If a team is acting entitled, find the perpetrator
A negative employee can infect those around them very quickly. We’ve all been there – a “Negative Nelly” in the office catches us on a bad day and soon we’re complaining about everything in sight. But it wasn’t that we had these initial feelings, we caught them from someone else.
If you find a group of people acting or speaking negatively, chances are there is an instigator – one who riles up the group. Speak to people in the group or those who work directly with the individuals involved and find the source. Bring that person aside and have a conversation with them about their attitude and behavior. If a soft approach won’t work (as mentioned before), don’t react. Call the person out on their behavior and tell them to stop. This will be the only discussion on the issue and then end the conversation. If it doesn’t stop from that point forward, and you have proof to back it up, then more aggressive action will have to be taken. At this point, the group behavior should improve.
“But they are good talent, they just have a poor attitude”
This is tough situation. You hired a rising star and they have been progressing just how you wanted them to – if not exceeding expectations. But lately, their attitude has been poor and their performance is not as it was. They start demanding things like they were still a top achiever and displaying characteristics of an entitled employee. But you still want to keep them as they will be an important part of your growth in the future, what do you do?
Bring in help.
At this point, a specialized person is needed to either coach your team (and not single out the offender) or a psychologist needs to be made available to speak with this individual. Entitlement is not a character trait, it is a behavior – hence it can be modified. If this individual is allowed to express him or herself freely, be guided in understanding why they are behaving the way they do, then it can bring them back to the way they were before. This type of intervention will be cheaper than lost productivity or training a new team member should this individual leave the company.
The problem is not just the individual; it’s your company
It’s easy to point fingers and focus on whose behavior needs modifying. But if you find this is a behavior that is repeated by different members of staff, then you need to take a step back. It may be something within your organization that is triggering this behavior.
In my time working in fee-only planning firms and speaking to other planners about the firms they work for, it is obvious that firm cultures are very different. However, there are some common situations that I have found that seem to encourage entitled behavior:
- Do you tell employees what they will earn, but not give them any next steps for their compensation to increase?
- Are there conversations about internal succession partners but no plan in place to achieve the outcome?
- Is a competitive nature among associates leading to “winners” and “losers” in seemingly trivial internal projects?
- Is your company growing in revenues and profit, but compensation is stagnant?
If you find that employees say these things are happening in your organization, it may be time to face the reality that your culture may be feeding this negative behavior.
So how do you adjust your culture to reduce entitled behavior?
Are you serving your team, or are you expecting them serve you?
I’m a big believer in “servant leadership”. One of my most memorable bosses always used to ask me “What can I do for you to make your job easier?” Most of the times I said “Nothing”, so her job didn’t get any harder. But her willingness to come down to my position from being a director made it seem like she was there to help me.
That approach alone provided motivation for me act like this with other people and always try my best to make sure I didn’t have anything to give her in response. In times where I did have something, she helped me to quickly resolve any problems. I appreciated her more as a boss, and I came to respect the work she did even more.
By providing your colleagues and staff a positive role model, you can eliminate the feeding ground for negative behavior.
How do you reward people – with money or praise?
I have had conversations with fellow planners about compensation and we laid it all out on the table. While it was good to get an idea of what other firms were paying, I did find out that a planner with less experience and qualifications than myself was getting paid more at another firm.
Was I annoyed? Heck yeah!
Would I have left the firm I was employed at to join his? No.
I have been blessed to work in two different kinds of companies. One paid average wages but showered me with praise and constructive criticism in healthy amounts. Praise was personal, heart felt and encouraging. Criticism was measured and thoughtful. Another company also paid an average salary but additionally offered a healthy array of benefits, but praise was forced and cold. I would choose the first scenario every time if I had to choose a company for a life-long career.
How does this impact your entitled employee?
Understand what benefits you are offering - is it purely monetary or are you developing a rounded, well-adjusted team member? Throwing money at a team member either because they request it or because you think you have to meet an industry standard in pay, can feed entitled behavior. If you don’t pay at or above the industry standard, you may need to explain why. However, you don’t have to pay the most in compensation, but you will have to make up for it in mentorship and guidance. You’ll find out very fast which staff just wants more money, and doesn’t value skill and personal development. They’ll leave for another job and you’ll have rid yourself of an entitled employee. Additionally, if you pay below-par wages but don’t deliver on the mentorship and guidance, expect an exodus of staff as well.
Create a deliberate plan for your team members – don’t leave it to chance
If you believe that you can hire a team member and train them every now and again, then you are mistaken. For a team to be built effectively and for members to compliment each other, then a deliberate plan needs to be put into place for every person. These plans need to compliment their individual skills while support the overall mission of the company.
In conversations I have had with Gen Y planners, many of them do not have defined development plans for the next three years of their career. They have been told to “develop their skills”, “learn how to market”, and “add to the companies bottom line.” This lack of direction may lead them to believe they have achieved these steps, while their supervisor may think they have another two years to go. This mis-match can cause an entitled attitude when accomplishments are perceived to have been achieved and then not recognized. Put a plan in place with defined and measureable milestones, and this will reduce the chances of this behavior developing.
(Full disclosure, I provide customized, deliberate plans for planners through a consulting company)
Entitlement behavior can be fixed, but don’t think it just exists with Gen Y
One thing I hope that managers and owners will do as a result of reading is to evaluate their team and their behavior:
- Do you have anyone who exhibits an entitled attitude?
- Is your company culture designed where entitlement could easily develop?
- Have you tried to deal with an individual but now you believe it may be your company procedures that are at fault?
- You’ve tried everything, but now you realize it is time to fire them to prevent any more damage from happening.
Whatever may be happening at your firm, know that entitlement can be fixed, as it is a behavior not a character trait. You may be able to fix it yourself, or you may have to bring in professional help. However, know that by taking proactive steps you are preserving the health of your company, and the service you provide to clients. Nothing should stand in the way of that.