Be Radically (Un)Entitled at Work (and Everywhere)

In any workplace, you are going to need the help of others to be as effective as you can be. That said, there are two ways to approach getting help. The first is entitlement.

If you want to have people to blame when you fail, go into work with the expectation that other people owe you something – because of your department, because of “best practices,” etc.

If you don’t want to fail, go into work with the expectation that no one owes you anything. Expect that you must give value for value in everything.

This second is not just the opposite of entitlement – it’s an active attempt to change requesting help from the asking of a favor to the making of a trade between equals. It’s radical unentitlement.

When you’re radically unentitled, you don’t expect other people to drop what they’re doing to help you. You stand ready to write the code, design the project, or write.

When you’re radically unentitled, you make an effort to do a favor in return for someone who gives their time to help you, even if you can’t pay back in kind.

When you’re radically unentitled, you don’t expect people to conform to your software, communication, management, or other preferences. You meet them where they are – your main goal is to get results, not compliance.

Even when people will respond to an entitled request, don’t make one. Actively resist entitlement in all things, and actively look to provide value in all things.

Ironically, the more unentitled (and ready to be self-sufficient) you are, the better people will feel about helping you. Even if you can’t provide value to someone else in a situation, your posture of radical unentitlement will even make some people feel obliged to you.

Intellectual influences: Isaac Morehouse and Jocko WIllink have both made similar points RE: the workplace.

James Walpole

James Walpole is a writer, startup marketer, and perpetual apprentice. You're reading his blog right now, and he really appreciates it. Don't let it go to his head, though.

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