Dealing with entitled employees in African workplace

The youngest generation in the workplace seems to bag sense of entitlement while assuming duty in corporate organisations. JULIANA AJAYI presents stakeholders’ views on purported entitled employees

The African workforce is characterised by different generations, who have experienced wars, innovation, technological development and pandemics. It also consists of people who are now called ‘digital nomads.’

In seeking greener pastures and a better life, Africans have moved from one place to another, within Africa and beyond, seeking opportunities. While employees may seek to learn and grow, and organisations are willing to train and develop their employees, there lies the inherent effect of working with employees with entitlement syndrome.


Africa’s workforce

Over the years, Africa has reportedly ranked high, especially in the Eastern and Central regions, between years 2000 and 2019. Employees in the workplace represent some of the people categorised in the labour force.

In a report published by the International Labour Organisation, Africa was recognised as a young continent with youth comprising more than a third (34.2 per cent) of the population. Africa is the only region in the world whose labour force is rapidly expanding. 

Africa’s employment-to-population ratio has been high, compared to other continents. This is mainly owing to more people taking up employment – including in the informal sector – as they simply cannot afford not to work. Employment-to-population ratio is highest in eastern Africa and lowest in northern Africa. The employment share for the industry is highest in the north. 

For instance, in West Africa, the volume of labour force participation has consistently increased from 84.5 million, 119.1 million, 122.6 million, 126.2 million, 129.8 million, 133.5 million to 137.2 million in 2000, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021.

East African region has a labour force that has rapidly increased from 109 million in 2000 to 175.8 million, 181.3 million, 187 million, 193.3 million, 199.8 million and 206.3 million in 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021.

Africa’s labour force participation from 2000, 2016 to 2021 was 302.1 million, 451.3 million, 463.2 million, 476 million, 489.7 million, 503.8 million and 518 million.


Entitled employees

Employees with entitlement mentality exist almost in every organisation. Some employees have a sense of entitlement towards incentives, bonuses, salaries and promotions. Though they may not necessarily be the most difficult employees in the organisation, they play a role in turning other employees towards a rebellious path. 

Entitled employees ideally demand things that they believe they have earned from their commitment and dedication to their jobs and organisation. As an entitled employee, the feeling that one is deserving trails every demand made to the organisation. 

Studies have shown that entitlement among employees in the workplace could be a result of modern social and parenting practices; the method adopted by parents in raising their children. This practice makes the child feel very special, deserving of accolades and recognition, even when they had practically done nothing deserving of rewards. 

The Social Psychological and Personality Science Journal indicated that entitled people were more likely to ignore instructions, even when following those instructions. 

Employee entitlement has been largely associated with the Millennials and Generation Z. As a result, in handling talent shortages, some organisations consider the solution to avoiding entitled employees is by employing people outside these generations and employing older people, who are considered to be more reliable and well-cultured.


GenZ and Millennials in the workplace 

GenZs are categorised as those born in the late 90s and early 2000s; they are also specified as being born between 1995 and 2012. Millennials, however, are sometimes called Generation Y or GenY, a set of people born between 1981 and 1996. 

Both generations have been tagged as those having the most sense of entitlement. However, some of them disagree, saying they only want good working conditions for themselves. 

A 2022 Deloitte global survey on GenZ and GenY shows that 46 per cent of  GenZ and 47 per cent of GenY live paycheck to paycheck and worry that they won’t be able to cover their expenses, 26 per cent of GenZ are not confident they will be able to retire with financial comfort, 30 per cent of GenZ do not feel financially secure, 43 per cent of GenZ have taken on either a part- or full-time paying job, in addition to their primary job.

Eleven per cent of GenY selected political instability, war and conflicts between countries as their greatest concern, while  77 per cent agreed that the gap between the richest and poorest people in their country is widening. Forty-three per cent of GenZs and 33 per cent of GenY have a second part-or full-time paying job in addition to their primary job. A small, but growing, percentage of these generations is moving to less expensive cities with remote jobs.  

Femi Williams (not real name), an assistant branch manager in a financial institution, says young people are easily misunderstood in the workplace.

Williams disagrees that GenZ showcases any form of entitlement. Rather, he says they are talented people, who are just tired of how the system in which their parents and older generations worked. 

His words, “A young man in his early 30s assigned to be my superior, while I report to him. At first, I thought that was degrading, but I took it as an opportunity to learn. Spending weeks with the man taught me a lot of things I thought I knew. Software and other technicalities were introduced to me. 

“I would have jeopardised a life-changing opportunity, simply because I wanted to feel superior. This is the same problem for everyone who looks down on every GenZ in the workplace. These young ones have something on their minds that could change the workplace for good.”

According to Page Executive, GenZ, the youngest of the generation set, is highly perceptive, due to their online access and culture, and can quickly see through corporate brands that are disingenuous. They want to see companies passionately uphold their principles and stand by what they advocate – not just talk the talk.

A similar study says Gen Z will have the ability to demand greater personalisation in how they move along their career journey. For organisations to attract and retain the best and brightest of the generation, it will require a different mindset. 

Leadership style, talent retention strategies and employee engagement are just some of the challenges companies will face as a result.

PageGroup Regional Human Resources Director, Esther Roman, observes, “Companies traditionally tend to approach work with a ‘there’s a job to be done mindset,’ whereas employees are increasingly driven by the mission and by being trusted to fully execute their job. Such employees tend to want to contribute, making them ideal entry-level professionals. Employers must, therefore, review their strategy, so they can find and connect with these potential employees.”

HR Practice Leader for Page Executive in Europe, Raphael Asseo, expatiates, “GenZ put their work ethic, diversity and work-life balance at the centre on their interest and priorities when deciding whether the real challenge for HR is retaining GenZ, making it clear what the business is working towards, and creating an attractive proposition for them. Leaders must consistently demonstrate why their employees have made the right decision in choosing to work for them.”

GenZs and Millennials are seeking balance and opportunities to grow. Twenty-two per cent of GenZs left their jobs because the pay was not high enough, 12 per cent felt the job was detrimental to their mental health, and 12 per cent were feeling burned out. Thirty-two per cent chose their new jobs because of work-life balance, 29 because of learning and development, while 24 was because of a high salary or other financial benefits, according to Deloitte 2022 Global Survey.


Training and development 

Organisations around the world have continuously adopted the concept of training and development. Training and development are designed to empower employees, to sharpen their skills on the job while they grow professionally in their careers. This has, over the years, improved efficiency and productivity among employees. A study by the International Journal of Business and Management Research indicated that 90 per cent of employees surveyed agreed or strongly agreed that training and development programmes improved their job performance.

Whether or not employees exhibit entitlement syndromes, research shows that training and development not only reorients employees but improves their overall performance on the job. Such training can be in-house, third party or online or in-person with a major aim of safeguarding the workplace from entitled employees. 

Since the Human Resource Manager’s job goes beyond recruiting employees, they are saddled with the responsibility of organising training for employees for overall goal or objective. To achieve this, HRMs must also be acquainted with the necessary skills to do so. 

Recently, two Nigerian organisations, Greensage Business Consult and Plexus Media Interlinks, announced a partnership that will birth a change in the HR industry, ‘The First Africa HR Meeting’. The partnership is meant to support, equip and develop practising and aspiring HR practitioners in Africa.

Such trainings expose the practitoners to better ways of managing employess, as well as eliminate all forms of entitlement syndrome, which are the bane of Africa’s development. 



The generations tagged with entitlement syndrome argue that they only seek a good working condition in the workplace fit for their mental health, able to meet their financial obligations and offer them growth on the job. 

The Deloitte report highlights, “Grappling with the impact of the last few years, the youngest generation in the workforce is seeking balance and sustained change. 

“In these uncertain times, they are reassessing their priorities and expecting more from business leaders. To attract and retain talent, business leaders should act urgently to shape work models that meet the expectations of their people. Prioritising work-life balance, learning and development, and well-being will be critical, as will having a clear purpose and allowing employees to address societal issues through their work.” 

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