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Why the Term “Entitlementia” – And Why You Should Use It

by Garrett Sutton

“Continued dependence upon relief induces a spiritual and moral disintegration fundamentally destructive to the national fiber. To dole out relief in this way is to administer a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit.”
–Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1935

Toxic personalities come in all flavors – some more bitter than others. In my new book, Toxic Client: Knowing and Avoiding Problem Customers, I had to coin a new term to describe a recent and troubling toxic phenomena in our business world. Entitlementia is the dementia resulting from a sustained and/or ingrained sense of entitlement.

More and more people suffer from the very real problems associated with entitlement. They see themselves as above everyone else. The rules don’t apply to them. They have no empathy. Indeed, they are so special they do not need to trifle with the feelings of others. The others are not worthy, like they are, and must be put down in order to inflate their own self-importance.

But if you have to inflate your own worth, are you really that special?

That question can never be asked of such people. They are brilliant, and immune to any criticism. Unfortunately, the self-important are not self-aware.

Of course, awareness would greatly benefit such people. However, that may be just too much to ask at this point. They can’t and won’t see it. A better starting point is awareness by the rest of us of this growing malignancy within our ranks. You have to clearly identify the problem before you can ever begin to correct it.

The problem we face is “Entitlementia,” the now ever clear combining of entitlement and dementia.

Dementia isn’t any one disease. Rather it is a bundle of symptoms affecting one’s thinking and social abilities enough to interfere with normal living. Signs of de¬mentia include a difficulty with planning and organizing, an inability to reason, inappropriate behavior, a decrease in moti¬vation and problems with memory. When those with demen¬tia are placed in situations beyond their abilities, they often react with anger, frustration and an eruption of emotion. The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, which makes up 55% to 65% of all cases. Many of us have known or dealt with a person afflicted by Alzheimer’s.

An entitlement mentality also displays the same core characteristics of demen¬tia. Psychologists view entitlement as a continuum of person¬ality traits that range from the less severe self-absorption all the way to narcissism. All involve a perspective in which selfish needs dominate over empathy and sacrifice. Righteousness, grandiosity, and self-centeredness are other terms used to describe the characteristics of these individuals.

Using the term is Entitlementia is a way to clearly put forth the problem. The next step is for the afflicted to get help. Again, while such types are willfully blind to the problem, some will respond if they hear it often enough from enough people.

The economic consequences of entitled workers not getting help are significant. Frequently, those with Entitlementia have been trained at the best schools. They have achieved great academic success but have never worked at a real job. They believe they should get work they want to do and that they are just as smart or better than their new ‘peers’ with years of work experience. Those with Entitlementia are in it for themselves – for the instant fame and riches that is their due. Fitting into a work organization where you start at the bottom and work as a team doesn’t fit their entitled view of life. Their selfish attitudes do not contribute to the whole. The economy and, by extension, all of us suffer.

Trying to do business with the entitled can be very challenging. They want the best deal, the upper hand, in all matters. The business owner is just a mere vendor, lucky to be dealing with the brilliance of the entitled customer. As I write in Toxic Client, sometimes the best strategy is to show them the door before they make your life miserable.

The workplace is a different matter. You are letting them in the door. Many of these children have come from the best schools and look great on paper. They appear to be very employable. And yet employers are now starting to report that roughly 10% of this new workforce displays signs of Entitlementia. They buckle under criticism, which many have never received before. Even constructive criticism is traumatic. Many switch jobs frequently. They wash out. They are bitter.

Our colleges and universities have collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in tuition from parents, governments and charities only to turn out graduates wholly unprepared for the ‘rigors’ of a normal workplace. This economic waste of resources is both significant and sad. Our schools share a great deal of blame for this misfortune. An environment of coddling, safe spaces and speech-chilling microaggressions does not prepare students for the real world of criticism and frank discussion. The rise of Entitlementia reflects the decline of free and healthy interactions on college campuses.

And so the term Entitlementia should be used. We must clearly identify the problem. By doing so we provide those in need of help from framework for recovery. As well, by talking openly about the problem we can all seek to prevent another generation of Entitlementia.

Garrett Sutton is a bestselling author and attorney. His clearly written books, including Start Your Own Corporation, Loopholes of Real Estate, and Finance Your Own Business, have helped entrepreneurs and investors protect their assets and advance their goals. For more information visit www.CorporateDirect.com. In speaking with his many clients, Garrett has learned how often they face and struggle with toxic clients. Toxic Client: Knowing and Avoiding Problem Customers is based on those experiences. To receive the first chapter of Toxic Client free visit www.ToxicClient.com.


Entitlement Mentality to Entitlementia

Jason owned an independent bookstore.  It was a tough business with all the on-line competition. It was even tougher with his customers’ new sense of entitlement.

Jason offered a service to locate out of print books. It was a niche that helped him survive. He used Facebook and other social media to promote the service. As his Facebook followers grew so did the number of people posting pirate sites for the free download of books.

When Jason blocked those people hurting his business he came under attack himself. An angry hoard began a campaign against Jason, stridently calling him names, asserting that all creative works must be free and claiming that business owners and writers already make enough money. Very few came to Jason’s defense. The campaign against him was spiteful, hateful. It came into his bookstore in offensive ways. Jason was forced to shut down his business, adding four more to the unemployment line.

What is going on here?

The number of people who feel entitled to a creative work, any work, without paying for it is surprisingly high. Even more so, the anger with which they assert their right to steal from others is incredibly disturbing.

The strong entitlement mentality of some has now morphed into Entitlementia, the dementia resulting from a sustained sense of entitlement.

Dementia isn’t any one disease. Rather it is a bundle of symptoms affecting one’s thinking and social abilities enough to interfere with normal living. Signs of de­mentia include a difficulty with planning and organizing, an inability to reason, inappropriate behavior, a decrease in moti­vation and problems with memory. When those with demen­tia are placed in situations beyond their abilities, they often react with anger, frustration and an eruption of emotion. The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, which makes up 55% to 65% of all cases. Many of us have known or dealt with a person afflicted by Alzheimer’s.

An entitlement mentality also displays the same core characteristics of demen­tia. Psychologists view entitlement as a continuum of person­ality traits that range from the less severe self-absorption all the way to narcissism. All involve a perspective in which selfish needs dominate over empathy and sacrifice. Righteousness, grandiosity, and self-centeredness are other terms used to describe the characteristics of these individuals.

Businesses owners must learn how to deal with the new problem of Entitlementia. You now encounter customers who see themselves as above everyone else. The rules don’t apply to them. There is no empathy, no compassion or understanding for the challenges a business owner faces just to keep the doors open and their employees paid.  As well, when political leaders denounce the rich for not paying their fair share (whether true or not) the trickle down message is that anyone in business is not worthy. Whether rational or not, their anger is real.

How do you handle Entitlementia?

You and your staff must spot it early. We’ve given you the signs. When they display themselves, show that person the door. Clients with Entitlementia are toxic clients. They will waste your time with behavior ranging from hissy fits to angry and completely unreasonable demands.

They will never appreciate your efforts. You will spend more time dealing with their dementia and thus less time with your good clients, the ones who actually help you stay in business.

When the entitled learn they are not entitled to your services, it is quite possible that all of us will benefit.


4 Ways to Dismiss a Toxic Client

We’ve all had that client who is impossible to please, abuses our staff and wreaks havoc upon our business. At some point, and hopefully sooner than later, you realize that you must dismiss the client before your staff leaves and your own sanity suffers.

How do you dismiss such a toxic client? Here are four ways:

  1. Prioritize your best clients

When good clients call service them first. The cringe-worthy clients get pushed to the back of the line. Some may get the hint and leave. Others, being obtuse to their behavior, are not attuned to such clear signs, let alone to hints. We will deal with deal with such less aware customers in tip number 4.

As one of my clients says: “Fast pays get fast work.” By prioritizing your good and paying clients over the mean and slow paying ones your business will improve.

  1. Devise a new schedule

The ‘It’s not you, it’s me’ line that works in dating can serve you in business. Tell the client that you are focusing on just one area now. If you do marketing for medical professionals and your one dentist client is toxic, tell the dentist you are just working for doctors now.

You can also say that you are too busy to take their work. You may be short staffed or you are cutting back on hours but your schedule is such that you just can’t accommodate them now. Many will see their only choice as going elsewhere.

  1. Raise your fees

Raising your rates is a solid strategy for encouraging toxic clients to look elsewhere. Sometimes a 10 or 15% increase is enough but, for some others, it is not. One of my friends in business had to raise her rates by 50% before the difficult client moved on.

When biding on a job you may sense the potential for trouble. By providing a very high estimate you can screen out a problem customer. Or they may just accept the excessive bid. As one of my contractor’s friends says: “If the money is that good, they may be worth the trouble.”

  1. Fire the client

This is the last resort for dealing with a toxic client. It’s one of the

most unpleasant tasks in business, but is vital to your business’ well-being (and, sometimes, your own personal well-being). Firing a client means communicating clearly and decisively that the business relationship is terminated. It need not be done with hostility; in fact, professionalism dictates that a confrontational manner should be avoided as much as possible. The firing must be done with absolute clarity and finality.

There are times when doing this verbally is sufficient—for example, a hair-salon owner telling a customer that his or her patronage is no longer welcome. Saying something like, “We just feel that we can’t please you here, and you will probably be better served elsewhere,” can be affective. It is diplomatic, but firm.

There are times when ending the relationship should and must be done in writing. If you have a contract requiring a written notice of termination, follow the terms of the contract. If the situation appears problematic, or confusing given the contractual provisions, consult with an attorney.

Garrett Sutton is an author and asset protection attorney based in Reno, Nevada. Garrett’s bestselling books include: Start Your Own Corporation, Loopholes of Real Estate and Finance Your Own Business. His latest book, Toxic Client: Knowing and Avoiding Problem Customers, deals with the important premise: Not every client is a good client.

For more information on Garrett and his books please visit www.CorporateDirect.com.


5 Tips for Avoiding a Toxic Client

We’ve all had a Toxic Client or two during our time in business. That distinct person who complains about everything, abuses our staff and rankles our sanity.

A key to your business success (and inner harmony) is to avoid such Toxic Clients. Here are 5 tips for doing so:

  1. Research all new clients

A consultant friends of mine does due diligence on all new customers. She checks the person’s website, Google listings and other public information. She also checks the Better Business Bureau for any complaints, many of which can be quite revealing.

Another friend in construction pays $100 for business credit report. Cortera, NAV, and Experian Small Business all offer such reports. When entering into a significant contract it is money well spent to better know your client. A little research up front can help you avoid larger problems later on.

  1. Negative Comments

The client who makes broad, disparaging remarks about your entire profession is a client to avoid.

In my legal practice individuals frequently come in to talk about their matter. When they start venting about how all attorneys are crooked and their last three attorneys should be in jail my alarm bells start ringing. As in every profession, there are always a few bad apples out there. But I know for a fact that the entire orchard is not blighted. The people who complain that every practitioner in the field was out to get them will not become my client.

Experience tells us that the client who complains about members of your profession now will be complaining about you next.

  1. Over Eagerness

Just as negativity is an indicator so is the positive, over eager client who wants to rush into a contract. While positive energy is a good thing, it is best tempered with realism.

In smaller transactions due diligence may not be an issue, but in larger deals a good client should be doing their due diligence on you. The rush to sign a contract may reflect a client who is unrealistic about their business and prospects, only to become a toxic client once reality hits.

  1. Questionable Financial Terms

It is best to avoid clients who want you to alter your standard arrangements just for them.

Beware of those new clients who, out of the blue, want to barter for services. Frequently, once you have performed your end of the deal, the other side never does or performs a sub-standard job. They already have what they wanted, free work from you.

When your standard procedure is, for example, a 50% down payment steer clear from the client who only wants to pay when the job is complete. They may not have the money or are adept at gaining discounts, all to your later detriment.

Even if you are new in business stick to your payment terms. By doing so, you will succeed with better clients into the future.

  1. Listen to those Alarm Bells

Trust your instincts. When you hear the alarm, avoid the clients.       Too often in business we don’t listen to that first instinctual flash. We argue with ourselves that it is just business, that we need clients. The dull, prosaic concerns of keeping the doors open washes over the protective genius at our core.

If you learn to listen carefully you can avoid the toxic client who will drag you and your business down. Ironically, you will be better able to keep your doors open by not letting such types through the door.

Garrett Sutton is an author and asset protection attorney based in Reno, Nevada. Garrett’s bestselling books include: Start Your Own Corporation, Loopholes of Real Estate and Finance Your Own Business. His latest book, Toxic Client: Knowing and Avoiding Problem Customers, deals with the important premise: Not every client is a good client.

For more information on Garrett and his books please visit www.CorporateDirect.com.