What To Do With Entitled Team Members

Webster defines entitlement as “a belief that one is deserving of or entitled to certain privileges”. Based on this definition entitlement doesn’t seem like such a bad thing. I’ve always had a negative view on the concept of entitlement. In a team environment if a team member has a sense of entitlement she thinks she’s entitled to certain privileges because she’s been on the job longer than others or because he thinks his standards are higher than those of his teammates.In the hospitality business we all know the scenario. We have those servers who have been with us since Nam, they show up for work on time, they do their job and go home. Essentially they follow the rules, they are reliable but at the end of the day it’s all about them. They have an energy you can feel that says “I’m better than the rest therefore I deserve the best schedule and the best tables”. I really don’t have to participate with the team because I have a great track record, I know what I’m doing and I take care of my guests. So my question is: How many of us allow members of our team to display a blatant sense of entitlement and continue to let them remain on the team? Because I believe in true confessions I’m here to tell you I’m guilty of this as I write this blog!I have a situation where I have a 30 year server (yes, I said thirty – that’s not a typo) who has a blatant sense of entitlement. I’m working hard to give her the benefit of the doubt; however she continues to demonstrate behavior that dampens the morale of the team. She had an altercation with another team member today that was disrespectful and unacceptable (In my book there’s never an excuse to use foul language when interacting with a fellow team member). Of course she did. When I sat down to talk to her I asked her to tell me about the incident. Several questions later it was quite obvious that she wasn’t going to own her behavior. I finished the conversation by informing her that we are not going to condone that type of behavior and if it happens again we’ll have to have another conversation.Here’s my challenge. We are working in a country club environment with lots of older members. Many of whom are in love with this server. She’s what I’d refer to as an icon around here. If she goes away there will be a percentage of the membership who will be outraged (according to other managers) I get that, however I have to make decisions that serve the best interests of the team.With all this said, I’m the ultimate optimist! I believe in people and I believe they can change their attitudes & behavior if they have the desire to do so. Right now this server has demonstrated no desire to change. She spends all her time deflecting and she’s been unwilling to admit that she’s at fault. Don’t know how this is going to turn out but I’m up for the challenge. My goal is for her to stay and be a productive member of an awesome team. Stay Tuned!
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  • When was the last time you sat down with this woman and had a review? I think it might be time to have her reassess her job description. You may be surprised to learn that she has an entirely different understanding of her role at your restaurant. She may truly believe that she is in a position of authority within her sphere, and feels 'entitled' to the privilege of speaking down to her coworkers.

    In other words, how many waiters has she trained in her 30 years? How many employees has she see come and go? How many times has the restaurant changed management, chefs, purveyors, etc. How many times has she had to adjust and readjust over the years? How has 30 YEARS of continuous service shaped this person's concept of reality? I guarantee she's in her own world at this point.

    I've worked 6.5 years in one restaurant, and I think I own the place sometimes!

    This employee is more than a server. Give her a new job title, even if she continues serving food. Encourage her to redefine herself in a way that lifts everyone up, including the guests. Give her the opportunity to share what she knows with the staff in a whole new way; maybe make a video of her describing the evolution of the restaurant during her tenure (complete with pictures, if she has any). Have some fun with it. Get her to loosen up.

    Perhaps if she sees herself in a new light, it will change her attitude towards the staff.
  • Actually Chef in NY they say fahgettaboutit! I know I was born in NY raised in Jersey where they drink cawfee and play basebawl. Anyway, thank you everyone for the great comments. Chef you are right nobody is indispensable. Paul you are right on. I like your reference to "competitive capitalism". I wish more in our industry had your perspective. Bob seniority and loyalty do count but only if that person is leading by example and delivering results commensurate with that seniority. Stoligirl this situation is all about this person not being held accountable in the past. Patrick your advice is great. WE are documenting everything and adhering to a progressive discipline guideline similar to the one you mention. Thanks again everyone for a stimulating exchange. This is obviously a topic we can all relate to!
  • Good luck, I think we all go through this same scenario at one time or another. We shudder to think what life would be without this person, what will the guests say if we fire her and on and on. Remember that no one is indispensable at any level, you, me and that server. Unless you're willing to accept that type of behavior from everyone on staff, you have to deal with it. I assure you that life will go on. As far as changing that server's attitude and MO, as they say in NY, forget about it! It's probably not going to happen
  • Senority does offer some priviliges but it is not an entitlement.
    Because I've worked at my restaurant for a long time doesn't mean I am held to a lesser standard than my peers. In the example provided above, the policies and good business practices do not allow for disruptive behavior no matter how long one has been employed for any organization. Pretty much the only time the rules can be bent is when it;s the boss who made the rules up to began with. Being employed and having a job is not a democracy. It competitive capitalism. The past 24-months of restaurant closures, reduced staff, reduced schedules, etc. lends the circumstaces to get the job done right with the least amount of challenges. In today's market, senority doesn't mean squat (in all industries). It's what are you doing today to keep the company financially viable and profitable in the future.
    Rough perspective... but that's the way it is.
    Bob... I say this with all due respect for we who have "put in the time". Things are markedly different now in the restaurant business.
  • Us old servers ARE usually the best ones in the house!If they are not leading the team by example,they need a good pep talk! By the way,has no one ever heared of seniority,or doesnt it exist in restaurants?
  • Yea...the return of Stoligirl!
  • When someone is blatantly disrespectful, showing no ownership of their behavior, is it due to feeling 'entitled' or is it simply because no one has held them accountable in the past?

    Sometimes, an isolated incident shines a spotlight on a situation, and it forces you to look at something with a magnifying glass.
  • Bill,

    WOW! 30 years!

    That's exceptional in this day and age, what with the vast amount of choices to work and with the changing workforce.

    As for entitlement, just what does this mean?
    Is it really entitlement or is it seniority?
    Or is it a person's arrogance getting in the way?
    Whichever it may be, as a manager, or owner, this employee shouldn't be able to act this way or show disrespect to other's in any way.

    I like Paul's thinking of the 3 strikes approach.

    More importantly use some sort of progressive discipline for the staff, first a verbal, second a written reprimand, third a suspension and finally dismissal. However, any of these could be precluded with dismissal if the incident is severe enough.

    An employee with this much experience, in the same organization, should be coaching, teaching and developing those with less experience. They will truly be appreciated for any insight given.

    (20+ years professional hospitality person)
  • Hello..

    Unless this staffer works all the shifts 7-days a week... she's part of the team.

    The only people that have an entitlement are the customers.

    If it happens again, I'd change her schedule for a week as demo of who ownes the available shifts.

    If she bad mouths the change with the club members then she is bad mouthing the organization. That's not tolerable and more stringient changes may be needed. Document your "conversations" with her, including the behavior not tolerated and the expected future conduct expected.

    How about 3-strikes and you're out approach?

    Keep in mind that no disciplinary action equals: behavior unchallenged is behavior approved. That will not bide well with the other team members. It an employee is disruptive to the organization that becomes your weakest link in longterm success and branding.

    (30-year Career Professional Waiter... also no typo and a 'Nam vet!)
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