8/1/2006 | 2 MINUTE READ

Promoting A Culture Of Merit

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It’s a shame what has happened to some of our best industries and the hundreds of thousands of employees working in those industries. Legacy airlines and large automobile manufacturers are struggling for their futures. These companies have lost and continue to lose billions of dollars of shareholders’ money annually. I think one of the anchors pulling these companies down is the culture of entitlement that crept in through the years.

The culture of entitlement is a “you owe me” attitude, one where people believe that society, a company or government owes them something, and they do not have to earn or deliver value for what they receive. These people believe they are owed something because of who they are or what social group or union they belong to, not because of what they contribute to a company.

People who feel entitled take for granted what they have and keep asking for more, and the more they get, the more they expect. In a culture of entitlement, peer pressure to perform is replaced by peer pressure to conform to the lowest common denominator. Looking good is more important than doing the right thing.

A company in a capitalist economy exists to enrich the shareholders. Companies do not exist simply to employ people. Companies employ people because it is necessary to reach the goal of enriching the shareholders. Instead of being thankful for a job at these companies, some people try to hold their company hostage with the “you owe me” attitude, as if the company owes them a job. Unfortunately, this attitude has crept out of the business world and is prevalent in many other aspects of our lives.

How do you know if you have a culture of entitlement in your company? A few signs are giving employees raises only because it’s that time of year; giving promotions based on how long someone has worked for the company as opposed to how well they perform; or having contests or incentives to get employees to do what they are already being paid to do. Do poor performers simply get reassigned as opposed to being asked to leave?

We would all be better off as business owners and members of society if we were to foster a culture of merit as opposed to entitlement. However, transitioning from a culture of entitlement to one of merit is not easy—it takes tough decisions, tough conversations and consistency. People who feel entitled hate being held accountable.

Create a culture of merit by rewarding top performance and frowning on mediocrity. Run your business like a team and not a family; no one ever gets fired from a family, and no matter what you do, you are still part of the family. On a team, however, members are motivated by peer pressure, the superstars are cheered, the slackers are booed and the weak team members are quickly replaced. You can’t mandate a culture of merit. Instead, create one by expecting a lot from your employees, holding them accountable and celebrating their successes. Let your employees know that job security, advancement and pay increases are guaranteed only by high performance and company profits.

Foster a culture of merit at your company, and you will see performance, quality and morale quickly go to new levels, and the value of your company will quickly multiply.

Mitch Free is president & CEO of MfgQuote.com, Atlanta, Georgia. He can be reached at (770) 444-9686, ext. 2946 or at mfree@mfgquote.com