Friday, 6 May 2016

The case of sense of entitlement

This writing offers my personal experience gained from involvement in various organisations having membership base of people of Nepali origin within Nepal and overseas. I intend to share some learnings gained from observation of a few interesting common patterns of individual and organisational behaviour. My hope is that this greatly generalised personal opinion would be of resemblance with and interest to the readers.

Human behaviour is an expression of a combination of sets of belief and values. Within the Nepali psyche the “sense of entitlement” seem to run deep. That attribute is the focus of this writing.

Oxford Dictionary defines entitlement as “the belief that one is inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment”.

Pay a close attention and you will notice the sense of entitlement in action almost at a daily level. The reason for such behaviour seem to mostly reside at a subconscious level. Its expression could be on a spectrum from one end of being a benign harmless action to the other end of being an extremely pathological and recurring behavioral pattern.  

One example of sense of entitlement in an organisational context is the unrealistic expectation and passive aggressiveness towards the leaders of an organisation from its members. The leaders of any organisation are people the members of that organisation have agreed to represent themselves. In the case of community organisations, these are people brave enough to come forward and contribute without any material return.

I want my rights but can’t be bothered about responsibilities. How bizarre?
A leader of any organisation has a set of duty and obligations that s/he must fulfill. There is no dispute about this. However, members of an organisation have an important role to hold their leaders accountable. When members behave as if the leaders have to do almost everything by themselves for the organisation and for the members, this is an unrealistic expectation and a sad case of sense of entitlement.

We see this behaviour so often expressed from the general public of Nepal towards the political leaders. The general public’s role does not end after voting in an election. As a matter of fact, it is only a beginning. The leaders need to be time and again reminded about their promise to the voters. Of course in a civilised manner. Holding our leaders accountable is a fundamental responsibility of a voter. This applies to community organisations too or as a matter of fact it is applicable to any organisation.

If we are not willing to assume our fundamental role such as holding our leaders accountable (I repeat here, in a civilised manner) and take responsibility, then how fair is it for us to keep seeking our rights? After a while, lack of willingness to take responsibility but to keep seeking rights ends up becoming a mere complaining, whinging and moaning exercise without any outcome. We so often see frustration out of this, don’t we?

Let us take an example of a project or event being organised by a community organisation. As far as I am concerned, a project is delivered better when it is a collaboration of the leaders and members of an organisation. It is fair for us to expect the leaders of the organisation to lead, however, each of us have a role in successful delivery of any project. If one is unable to contribute meaningfully, refraining from unreasonable criticism and rather providing encouragement, inspiration and motivation will go a long way. Any criticism is good criticism only if is constructive. No one needs those discouragements and negative vibe that bring everybody down. Especially in a volunteer organisation, this kind of passive aggressive behaviour should not have any space or make any sense at all.

Next time when you are about to complain, think of this - if you are not willing to do a job better than the person you are about to criticize, you have got no right to speak. They say, “action speaks louder than words”. Talking is easy; working is hard. Anyone can speak; only a few deliver.

Only talking, not doing anything by yourself yet expecting others to do it for you is an extreme form of sense of entitlement. It is astounding how often this occurs.

I am busy. Really?
“I’m busy” must be the reason number one whenever there is a proposal to do something. This reason comes in play almost always when we set ourselves to do something outside our own personal life.  Well, really? How busy are we? As they say, it is all matter of priority, isn’t it?

How do we justify ourselves making excuse of being busy yet expect others to take time out of their personal life to do things? This is simply bizzare. Take a note and you’ll realise how often this happens.

Closely associated with being busy is the practice of being inconsiderate. This is the behaviour that implies, “I am busy but you do it. I am not going to compromise my comfort zone; no matter how difficult is it for you, you do it”.

It seems in this day and age of instant message and fast food, we have gotten used to choosing easy in everything. Why can’t we endure a slight discomfort in our daily life for the sake of greater good? I’m not implying here for people to give up anything. It is only a matter of adjusting and managing time. For example, you might have to delay your party by an hour or you might have to travel an extra few distance to attend a function. Are those too hard to do?

So, where to from here?
I myself might be exhibiting this trait of sense of entitlement and do not wish to claim immunity. My thinking is also after all part of the wider Nepali psyche. I am a product and contributor to that collective thinking. However, correcting it has been an ongoing effort and self correction exercise.

Next time you are about to exhibit sense of entitlement how about taking a micro puase and asking yourself the following questions -

  1. What solution can I offer apart from pointing out to problems? Am I part of the solution or problem?
  2. What have I done other than simply criticising?
  3. Am I merely whinging and moaning? Is that how I want to be seen and taken as?
  4. Could there be other ways of analysing matters other than a simplistic worldview of the dichotomy of easy and difficult?
  5. Last but not least, as yourself, "if someone said to me what I am about to say, how would I react to it"?

May the force be with you to find the remedy for the sense of entitlement. Good luck.