One Good Reason to Cultivate your Sense of Entitlement

Feeling entitled has an interesting side effect, new research from Cornell University has found.

In four different studies, Emily Zitek of the ILR School and Vanderbilt University researcher Lynne Vincent, concluded that making test subjects feel more entitled caused a positive effect on creativity.

Each study was intended to investigate the creative performance of participants who either were or were not, temporarily put into an entitled mindset.

“In this research, we discovered that increased creativity is one positive consequence of increased state of entitlement,” Zitek said. “In general, entitlement is viewed as a bad thing that should be eliminated, but this research shows that there could actually be an advantage to boosting the entitlement of individuals.”

Entitlement and Individuality

In one of the studies, volunteers were given five minutes to write about why they should or should not feel more entitled than others.

Following, they were asked to complete two tasks that measured creativity, including listing different ways to use a paperclip and drawing an alien creature from another planet. Participants who were manipulated into feeling more entitled were more creative during the exercises.

The researchers suggest that the findings could be used by managers dealing with entitled employees.

Group Dynamics

According to Zitek, she and Vincent learned that entitled individuals see themselves as different from others. This need to feel unique could be either helpful or harmful when performing creative tasks where differing from others is important to success.

“On one hand, trying to make employees feel similar to others can reduce entitlement, but it might also reduce creativity,” Zitek says. “On the other hand, boosting entitlement to encourage temporary creativity might turn them into a nuisance, but the manager might accept that if creativity is the main goal.”

The potential for increased sensitivities and tensions in workplace team dynamics could become a problem. However, the study points out that carefully managed temporary entitlement could also help drive more success.

“Perhaps some of the negative consequences of entitlement are due to entitled individuals’ desire to be different and could be eliminated by allowing them to express their differences in a more productive way,” Zitek wrote. “For example, due to the heightened need for uniqueness associated with entitlement, entitled individuals might be more willing and able to engage in other tasks that require them to stand out, such as public speaking, pitching an idea and whistleblowing.”

Emily M. Zitek, Lynne C. Vincent,
Deserve and Diverge: Feeling Entitled Makes People More Creative,”
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology ISSN 0022-1031,dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jesp.2014.10.006.

Zitek, E. M., & Jordan, A. H. (2014, August)
I need food and I deserve a raise: People feel more entitled when hungry
Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Academy of Management, Philadelphia, PA.

Top Photo by Purple Sherbet Photography