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Entitled or misunderstood? Towards the repositioning of the sense of entitlement concept in the generational difference debate

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This paper contributes to debates in the broad area of generational differences at work. Specifically, we locate this study within the literature of the work values and expectations of the ‘Millennial generation’, also known as ‘GenMe’. Much has been made in the media and popular practitioner literature about how the latest generation of workers have a ‘sense of entitlement’ and therefore expect more from the workplace than previous generations. In this paper, we argue that this mainstream view of the sense of entitlement as a concept is problematic and requires a more critical examination. We consider two divergent bodies of literature on the sense of entitlement in relation to generational differences at work – a managerialist approach, which conceptualises sense of entitlement to work–life balance as a negative trait, and a second body, based on the seminal work by Sue Lewis and colleagues, that treats sense of entitlement as a situated process rather than an internal characteristic. We use data from a study of young adults leaving university in the UK, inspired by Sue's work. Our analysis challenges the notion of today's younger workers as more ‘entitled’ than previous generations. This study extends existing research by providing a contextualised analysis of young people's situated accounts of sense of entitlement at work.
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Keywords: Generación del milenio; Generation Y; equilibrio entre trabajo y vida; sense of entitlement; sentido de derecho; work–life balance

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Leadership, Work, and Organisations, Middlesex University Business School, London, UK 2: Department of Psychology, University of Exeter, Exeter, UK

Publication date: March 14, 2016

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