Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

A Study of the Cognitive Determinants of Generation Y's Entitlement Mentality

Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

A Study of the Cognitive Determinants of Generation Y's Entitlement Mentality

Article excerpt


Entitlement, as defined by The American Heritage Dictionary (1985), is "to furnish with a right or claim to something." This study attempts to investigate the possible cognitive determinants which have led to an "entitlement" mentality found in "Generation Y" individuals ("Millenials") confronting both academicians and employers

This paper drew from an extensive review of relevant literature and results from focus groups used to validate the constructs leading to the development of an instrument which was utilized to measure the behavioral, cognitive and affective antecedents leading to an entitlement mentality. Hypothesis testing utilizing regression analysis produced interesting results which are detailed in this paper. The findings and implications of this research will be discussed.


During the past forty (40) years, the nature of the American economy has shifted dramatically from one focused on manufacturing and heavy industry to one that is dominated by "white collar" professions and service industry jobs (Robbins, 2005). In its comprehensive survey of Millenials (Generation Y), the Pew Research Center (2010) identified four generational cohorts: The Silent generation, Baby Boomers, Generation X, and the Millenial generation.

The Silent generation consists of those born between 1928 and 1945. The current age of this group is 65+. They are the children of the Great Depression and World War II. Their dominant work values include honesty, organizational loyalty, conformity and a work ethic that incorporates hard work and moral values (Pew, 2010).

A significant demographic shift is now occurring as members of the "Baby Boomer Generation" (1946-1964) pass from the workforce into retirement. They take with them a work ethic driven by success, ambition, high achievement and a loyalty to their careers and organizations.

While "Generation X" (1965-1981), with their work values of team orientation, a work/family life balance, and loyalty to relationships, dominates the current workforce population, the Millenials, also known as "Generation Y" (1982-2009) have begun to stream into the labor market. The Millenials seem to bring with them a hedonism, narcissism, and cavalier work ethic previously unknown in the American workforce. Nonetheless, these negative traits are contradicted and counterbalanced by this same generation's loyalty to individual managers (not corporations); a commitment to idealistic corporate visions and values; and a willingness to provide an employer with hard work, albeit in exchange for virtually immediate reward and recognition.

Most notably, the Millenials treat technology as their "sixth sense". It is a significant characteristic and skill set that distinguishes them from members of other generations (Deal, Altmann & Rogelberg, 2010). The Internet, cell phones and online social networking were all introduced during the growth years of the Millenials. They are "natives" to the technology while members of all other generations, no matter what their individual technological proficiency may be, are seen as "immigrants" (Hershatter & Epstein, 2010).

Members of the "Baby Boomer Generation", who are often in the upper echelon of corporate management; and the mid or lower level managers from "Generation X" are confronted, and confounded, by the ambiguous attitudes and conflicting behavior of their Millenial employees. Managers in the latter generation are particularly frustrated when they contrast their "sink or swim" entry into the workforce with the organizational "accommodations" offered to Millenials. (2010). Nonetheless, understanding and adapting to this new generation's work ethic will be critical to the restored, continued or future success of American business and industry.

Milllenials display similar attitudes and behavior toward academia. College instructors find that many possess an astonishing lack of drive, motivation and accountability. …

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