Search the site

Growing Leaders Blog

on Leading the Next Generation


Seven Emotions That Follow a Sense of Entitlement

A few short years ago, corporate executives were asked what single word best describes the recent college graduates entering their workplace. The word they selected? Entitled. Interestingly, when recent graduates were asked to guess what descriptive word these executives had chosen that begins with the letter “e,” they guessed: exciting, enterprising, entrepreneurial and energetic. None of them guessed how they were being perceived.

  • Entitlement—high.
  • Self-awareness—low.

In a series of studies using surveys that measure psychological entitlement and narcissism, University of New Hampshire management professor Paul Harvey found that Gen Y respondents scored 25% higher than respondents ages 40 to 60 and a whopping 50% higher than those over 61. In addition, Gen Y respondents were twice as likely to rank in the top 20% in their level of entitlement — the “highly entitled range” — as someone between 40 and 60, and four times more likely than a golden-ager. Harvey’s conclusion? As a group, he says Gen Yers are characterized by a “very inflated sense of self” that leads to “unrealistic expectations” and, ultimately, “chronic disappointment.”

Seven Emotional Byproducts of Entitlement

More and more adults I meet are worried about this sinister attitude creeping into their homes, classrooms or teams. Entitlement can be spotted by these emotions:

Anger. We live in an angry age. It takes so little to spark road rage, stadium violence, and all sorts of other aggression. Youth are angry today, perhaps for many reasons, not the least of which is their sense of entitlement. Think about it: if you feel entitled to something that you don’t receive, anger raises its ugly head.

Impatience. We live in an impatient generation because we expect things quickly… and entitlement only compounds the issue. When I feel entitled to something, I am far less patient with people. I’m driven to get what I want—now—because I deserve it. My reaction? I become demanding of others and short in my interactions with them.

Cynicism. A sense of entitlement is often followed by mild forms of cynicism. Again, not getting some benefit I feel I deserve can create a negative, jaded attitude in me. Perhaps adolescents have always been a bit cynical, but it’s on steroids today. Being aware of what’s available — and aware they don’t have it all — fosters cynicism.

Resentment. This one’s obvious. When I’m conscious of something out there that I don’t own but feel I deserve, it can cause severe resentment. This destructive attitude can sour any group of people and lead to negative behaviors as well. Instead of focusing on the many blessings I enjoy, I can become bitter.

Criticism. It’s easy to miss one common reaction to a sense of entitlement: a critical attitude. When someone feels entitled to something and doesn’t get it, they can assume a “sour grapes” posture and become disgruntled at the whole thing. They often will criticize those who did get what they wanted as a coping mechanism.

Ingratitude. In so many ways, gratitude and entitlement are polar-opposite emotions. When I’m grateful, I feel the sense of getting something I want badly but remain aware of what it felt like without it. However, when I feel entitled and don’t get it, all I feel is ungrateful. Once again, I feel I deserve something I’m forced to live without.

Disappointment. If I feel entitled to something but fail to get it, I begin to experience chronic disappointment. I’m sad or despondent over the perks I’ve missed out on and can become depressed, especially if I assume others’ Facebook posts are accurate and my friends are getting all the breaks or awesome vacations.

Conversely, when we develop students who don’t feel and act entitled, they likely will demonstrate the opposite emotions:

  • I am grateful.
  • I am hopeful and optimistic.
  • I can delay gratification.
  • I am at peace because I see the big picture.

We owe it to the emerging generation to escort them out of this destructive attitude. A sense of entitlement is an enemy of happiness and healthy thinking.


Looking to develop leadership skills in students this school year? Check out

Habitudes: Images That Form Leadership Habits and Attitudes



  1. Anuj on August 9, 2017 at 1:56 am

    When you slog for day and night on project, but on day of raise other guy takes away benefit, due to his ass licking attitude, it’s not entitlement, it’s demand for fairness. Sense of entitlement is INNOVATIVE tool invented by already privileged people to keep in check ambitions of emerging more talented people. Just like what USA does to contain rising economies of Asia specifically China. DONT FALL FOR THIS TRAP BELIEVE IN YOUR DREAMS, IN YOUR CAPABILITY. THERE IS NOTHING WRONG TO BELIEVE THAT YOU DESERVE IT. Quoting a famous movie dialogue sometimes ” Structures becomes shackles” , everyone who will try to break shackles will either be called “arrogant” or “entitled”

    • Rikko on September 5, 2018 at 10:18 am


      Superb analysis. You get the games that are being played on us so we continue to be mindless drones for the man—elephants tied with a single rope to a plastic Walmart chair. While those of us who are innovators in every sense of the word break free and work for themselves or at least work for the man and know the game a lot better.

    • Alarik Greenland on December 4, 2020 at 11:20 am

      Anuj. Legend. My website is Alarikgreenland.Com. I don’t work on this website anymore but get in touch if you are looking for intelligent conversation. It’s surprising to find how many people will agree with you, but also intuitively gang up on you as though a natural inclination to DEevolution. A primordial urge to protect superficial actors (as leaders) and persecute the real honest people. They respond to nostalgia for the familiar, causing aversion or disassociation of the real. What feels right or true, in their case, isn’t real. Their contradictions are vindicated via stigmatisation of those who speak out.

  2. Claire on August 16, 2017 at 4:59 am

    Great article… Love that line in the final statement, “We owe it to the emerging generation to escort them out of this destructive attitude”. I’d love any practical tips on how to do that, both in myself (I’m Gen Y!) and those I have influence over (I teach Gen Y – Z students and have a pre-school aged daughter). I feel that teaching and modelling gratitude is key but what other techniques would you recommend to tackle this rife issue?

  3. Tom on October 21, 2018 at 10:05 am

    Hmm…. are you being serious here. Perhaps you, that is a little unfortunate.

    Perhaps the a good way to illustrate what might be wrong with your argument is by turning these tools on you.

    # Helping the legacy generation innovate

    There is a growing problem amongst the old-generation. They are unable to innovate as a result of never having their views challenged. They have no hope for what can be.

    And do you know what the cause of this is: corruption through power. They are so used to getting what they say that they can just use power to get people to agree with them.

    Signs of power-corruptions

    * Arrogance
    * Contempt
    * Dismissal
    * Lack of hope

    We owe the next generation the right to get broken out of their dysfunctional legacy thinking so that they world can be made better for all

    So what do I think is really going on here? The first thing to realize is that much of this conflict is fundamental to the situation, and it is unclear who is wrong and who is right.

    # The establishment:

    * Are aware of problems
    * Are aware of complexity
    * Want the new generation to fit into their scheme and be useful
    * Have knowledge

    # The new people

    * Can see problems and opportunities that others are unaware of
    * Have new knowledge that others are not aware of
    * Are unaware of complexity
    * Want to go somewhere get something
    * Are less constrained by responsibility
    * Have more to gain from change.


    It is unsurprising that there should be conflict here. But the key thing is that the conflict is *good* and it is unclear who is wrong and who is right in any situation.

    But herein lies the problem. You see this conflict and you label it “sense of entitlement”, you label it immoral and then you proceed to “diagnose” disagreement and being taken advantage of and not being able to act of your potential as pathological.

    This is a problem, because it allows you to always win. Every conflict, every disagreement, every grievance becomes *entitlement* and can be dismissed therefore. But what you have to bear in mind is that you *can’t win*. You cannot defeat change, you cannot defeat aspiration – and if you attempt to you might not like the results. Here is what it looks like:

    * Employees leaving
    * Competitors springing up
    * You company going out of business.

    Of course, that’s the cost to you. The cost to the *forces of change* is being wrong, wasting their time trying the impossible, losing the opportunities you could provide them because they don’t understand the realities of the world.

    So perhaps you should embrace the conflict, understand it’s causes and fight each battle as it comes. Try to give inexperienced people understand – perhaps best achieved by telling people *why they are wrong*, and if you do this well you might find that you can use newcomers desire to understand, to change, to be useful to your advantage – to bridle it with reality and truth. Will it require tedious repetition – perhaps. Go right a FAQ for the young people you work with a tell them once they have read it then they can talk to you, my all means define surmountable barriers to being taken seriously – but they must be surmountable.

    But no, don’t label aspiration as entitlement.

  4. Trenton Stevens on March 5, 2019 at 3:01 pm

    The teenagers are not the only ones to blame. Adults have helped create many of these problems for them. There are also many new problems with the world that they are growing up around but other people then never had grown up around.

  5. Michael Hawke on April 16, 2019 at 10:13 am

    This article, and many more like it, are based on a false premise. EVERY generation thinks the next generation is ‘entitled’. The same generation who are labelling the kids ‘entitled’ were themselves ‘entitled’ when they were the same age. As we age, we get complacent and start to ‘give back’ with altruistic acts (mainly because we’re no longer interested in sacrificing our entire day to enrich others). As our own sense of entitlement diminishes, the RELATIVE level of entitlement in our youth appears to be much higher TO US. The survey that rates the RELATIVE levels of entitlement bares that point out. I’m a volunteer youth coach and for the past 30 years, the kids I see in my gym are pretty much the same kids that have always been there. Yes, there used to be kids who feel life owed them everything and there were kids that worked their tails off. That remains the case today. There’s very little difference that I can see. What’s different is that the parents are much more involved. When I was in high school, my parents rarely came to see me play sports. Today, the parents use their kid’s sports for their own personal entertainment which is very damaging to the kid’s sense of self. THAT needs to be fixed and then the kids can be kids again.

    Here’s something that spells it out in plain language from a mother who gets it.

    And some interesting thoughts from Socrates…

    “The children now love luxury, they have bad manners, contempt for authority, they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize over their teachers.” ~ Socrates

  6. Roger on April 29, 2019 at 9:13 am

    Tim, I’m surprised at the number of people disagreeing with you in these comments. They have some valid points, but they seem to be missing your valid points.

    I’m sure you agree that the attitude of entitlement is not new. It’s a condition of humanity common to every generation. Many people believe it’s more prevalent in young people today than it has been in recent decades, but we’re entitled to disagree with that premise if we wish. 🙂

    I don’t think talking about the dangers of entitled attitudes suppresses innovation or oppresses the masses as some comments here indicate. The emotional dynamics you describe here are real, and they rob us of peace and joy in life. They magnify unproductive conflict. Instead of denying that entitlement is a problem we need to oppose it constructively. Humility, gratitude, contentment, and other “counter-entitlement” characteristics are not the same as passivity.

    So my response to your critics is balance. Learn how to fight for justice and pursue dreams with a heart at peace and a sense of gratitude for all that’s good in the world. We are created to love and work hard, enjoying what we accomplish and what’s given to us. Entitlement robs our joy by making us feel we deserve everything without giving anything.

  7. Are Your Kids Entitled? - Sarah Hamaker on January 12, 2020 at 8:57 am

    […] we raising a generation of entitled children? One recent blog post, “Seven Emotions That Follow a Sense of Entitlement,” talks about what emotions entitled youth feel—and how these sinister attitudes have crept […]

Leave a Comment

Seven Emotions That Follow a Sense of Entitlement