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Abstract

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Methods
  5. Study 1
  6. Study 2
  7. Results
  8. Discussion
  9. Conclusion
  10. References
  11. Appendix

This paper describes a model of self-perceptions about what is owed and what is deserved in society based on research on self-interest and other-orientation. Scales measuring obligation and entitlement were developed using the responses of over 10,000 participants from around the world. Results show that obligation and entitlement are not ends on the same self-interest continuum but are better conceptualised as independent constructs. Obligation and entitlement were also shown to predict prosocial behavior including interpersonal organisational citizenship behaviors, volunteering, and charitable giving. Geographical differences in obligation and entitlement suggest that these constructs may be useful for understanding cultural differences in social investment around the world. A second study of employees in the United States investigated the role of obligation and entitlement in predicting work engagement and effectiveness in the workplace. Obligation predicted engagement and organisational citizenship behaviors, while entitlement was generally less predictive of workplace attitudes and behaviors. This paper concludes with a number of future directions for the continued study of obligation and entitlement in the workplace.


Introduction

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Methods
  5. Study 1
  6. Study 2
  7. Results
  8. Discussion
  9. Conclusion
  10. References
  11. Appendix

In his 1961 inaugural Presidential address, President John F. Kennedy called on the citizens of the United States to, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” This famous exhortation was a call for citizens to focus on their obligations over their entitlements. The idea was that life would be better for everyone in a country where people thought about their obligations instead of their entitlements. It is common for leaders around the world to encourage people to engage in prosocial behavior. This type of speech is often given in graduation commencements, at political events, or during religious ceremonies. These calls toward prosocial behavior are necessary because people are assumed to be naturally self-interested (Miller, 1999). Therefore, people require some sort of moral development or outside encouragement to put aside this natural self-interest for the good of the group. Despite this self-interest assumption, research from a variety of perspectives has demonstrated substantial individual differences in self-interest (Cropanzano, Goldman, & Folger, 2005). These individual differences in self-interest have been described from the prosocial side of the spectrum as difference in other-orientation (Meglino & Korsgaard, 2004).

Personality traits can be considered dark for a variety of reasons. For example, both collections of negative traits like narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy (Paulhus & Williams, 2002) and dimensional models of personality disorders (Hogan & Hogan, 2001) have been labeled dark personality. Another approach is to consider the degree to which a personality trait reflects self-interest over other-orientation. The assumptions that humans tend to act out of their own self-interest is one of the most pervasive in behavioral science (Miller, 1999). This assumption about the human self-interest motive has a strong theoretical grounding in both economic and evolutionary theories that argue that it is adaptive for individuals to act in their own self-interest (Frank, 1988). Self-interest is pervasive in explanations of specific individual behavior and the explanation of broad human behavior, and individuals strengthen the assumption of self-interest by using self-interest as the dominant explanation for their own behavior (Miller, 1999). However, societies and organisations typically see self-interested tendencies as dark or antisocial and other-oriented tendencies as positive or prosocial.

This paper examines self-interested and other-oriented personality using individual differences in self-perceptions of obligation and entitlement. While a variety of constructs have been developed to capture self-interested and other-oriented tendencies, the beliefs about deservingness and owing reflected in obligation and entitlement have been under-examined. Also, the research that does exist is mixed as to whether these individual differences in self-interest are actually good or bad. Hogan and Roberts (2004, p. 214) describe mature people as “both actively engaged in helping others and reasonable about advocating their own self-interest”. This definition points to the potential for a lack of obligation and either too much or too little entitlement to reflect dark personality, Later, the paper describes how too much obligation could also function as personal derailer.

This paper begins an examination of obligation and entitlement to understand the role of these constructs in predicting social behaviors. First, we describe the current research and develop a new approach to defining and measuring obligation and entitlement. Next, we develop a measure of obligation and entitlement. Then, this measure is used to test a number of hypotheses in a large-scale international survey and a sample of employees and their supervisors. The paper concludes with implications and future directions using obligation and entitlement to understand self-interested and other-oriented tendencies.

Obligation

Obligation is the degree to which individuals believe that they owe time, resources, and consideration to society. Using this definition, we place obligation within a larger class of variables that have been developed as tendencies to deviate from self-interest. These tendencies are typically studied as prosocial behaviors or other-orientations. Meglino and Korsgaard (2004, p. 948) describe other-orientation as “the dispositional tendency to be concerned with and helpful to other persons”. This orientation is theorised to have wide-ranging implications for a variety of organisational psychology models and relationships including moderating relationships between both job characteristics and job attitudes (Meglino & Korsgaard, 2007) and job characteristics and personal initiative (De Dreu & Nauta, 2009). However, this approach to other-orientation doesn't capture the cognitions behind why a person would be concerned about and helpful to others. A sense of obligation may be the self-perception behind this orientation.

Obligation has been studied in a variety of contexts, though typically not as a focal individual difference construct. Moral obligation has been studied as a motive for engaging in prosocial behavior (Schwartz, 1970; Gorsuch & Ortberg, 1983). Attitudes that are seen by participants as moral mandates are stronger, such that participants with opposing morally mandated attitudes showed problems in their interpersonal interactions (Skitka, Bauman, & Sargis, 2005). Obligation has also received some attention as an externally derived motive. This motive is typically described in a somewhat negative light. Omoto and Snyder (1995) distinguish between obligated care-giving that is derived from familial or legal relationships and other motives for helping behavior that could be predicted by personality and motivation. In this context, non-obligatory helping only occurs when the targets of prosocial behavior are strangers or organisations without a social exchange relationship with the person (Penner, 2002). Self-determination theorists also focus on the negative outcomes of external pressures (Deci & Ryan, 2000). Introjected regulation is a level in self-determination theory's autonomy continuum in which a regulation controls a person without being accepted by the person; therefore, this regulation is still considered externally motivated and the person is not fully autonomous (Gagné & Deci, 2005). In this framework, a sense of obligation would not be considered a self-derived reason for prosocial behavior. So, obligation has some negative connotations in that it reflects a subjugation of the self to the pressures of society.

From a personality trait perspective, obligation is most closely aligned with other-orientations and prosocial personality. A prosocial personality is “an enduring tendency to think about the welfare and the rights of other people, to feel concern and empathy for them, and to act in a way that benefits them” (Penner & Finkelstein, 1998, p. 526). Penner, Fritzche, Craiger, and Freifeld (1995) developed a measure of prosocial personality orientation called the Prosocial Personality Battery (PSB) in response to criticism that the relationships between personality trait measures and prosocial behavior were small. The PSB has been used to predict the helping behavior of college students (Penner et al., 1995) and the amount of time that people are willing to volunteer (Penner & Finkelstein, 1998). The factors of the PSB have also shown larger relationships with citizenship performance than other personality measures except conscientiousness across a number of studies (Borman, Penner, Allen, & Motowidlo, 2001). More recently, Grant (2008) has demonstrated the usefulness of measuring individual differences in prosocial motivation. However, this approach is limited to asking people if they care about helping others in their work.

Finally, self-discrepancy theory's focus on the ought self is also relevant for the concept of obligation (Higgins, 1987). The ought self is the representation of individuals' duties, responsibilities, and obligations that either they expect of themselves or significant others expect of them. This ought self can be conceptualised as more of a state in which obligations are brought into focus or as a chronic condition or trait in which individuals are more or less focused on these discrepancies. Someone who is obligated could be said to have a chronic ought self. This chronic focus on the ought self is one way in which a high sense of obligation may cause problems for individuals. One class of dark personality traits that can act as derailers to success are “Moving Towards” constructs (Benson & Campbell, 2007). These dimensions such as diligent, dependent, and dutiful can cause someone to fail through too much micro-managing behavior. Similarly, too much obligation can lead an individual to focus so much on what needs to be done for others that personal needs are not pursued.

While all of these constructs involve the idea of obligation, none of them measures it in a direct way. Nor are they parallel in structure to the way that we believe entitlement should be captured. The specific approach this research takes to measuring obligation will be discussed later in the paper.

Entitlement

Entitlement is the degree to which individuals believe that they deserve the time, resources, and considerations of society. Entitlement has most often been studied in relationship to the more studied trait of Narcissism. Entitlement is one of the subfacet scales of the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI; Raskin & Terry, 1988). Entitlement is also in the subtitle of a recent book, The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement (Twenge & Campbell, 2009). Entitlement has been shown to predict a variety of self-interested outcomes in society and the workplace. Entitlement is related to taking more candy, deserving a higher salary than one's peers, and taking a larger share of common goods (Campbell, Bonacci, Shelton, Exline, & Bushman, 2004). Individuals who are higher on entitlement feel justified in behaving selfishly following victimisation (Zitek, Jordan, Monin, & Leach, 2010). Entitlement can result in aggression in response to unfavorable evaluation and negative interactions (Reidy, Zeichner, Foster, & Martinez, 2008). At work, entitlement has been shown to manifest in demands for undeserved outcomes including raises, promotions, and praise (Fisk, 2010). These roots place entitlement squarely within the study of individual differences in self-interest. However, entitlement is also positively related to self-esteem (Campbell et al., 2004), and demanding what is owed to you at work is not necessarily negative behavior.

Campbell and colleagues (2004, p. 31) define psychological entitlement somewhat differently, as “a stable and pervasive sense that one deserves more and is entitled to more than others”. This definition includes two important components concerning the nature of entitlement. First is the general sense of deserving captured in our definition. Second is that this deservingness is directly compared to others' deservingness and is higher than these referent others' deservingness. This second component creates difficulty in measuring entitlement by self-report. Feather (1999) conducted studies showing that people were not always rated as entitled when they took more than an equal share of a prize. If observers thought the share corresponded to the individual's contribution, then the prize was deserved and the person had not acted in an entitled manner. Because it is difficult to measure an individual's societal contribution, self-report entitlement measures must assume that everyone's contribution is equal with all claims to high levels of deservingness indicating more entitlement.

We do not believe that most people think about how much more they deserve than other people in many contexts where entitlement is relevant. That is, most of our lives are not like a Christmas morning where we are directly confronted with the quality and value of the presents that we get relative to our siblings or friends. We believe that most evaluations are more self-referential: “Do I deserve this?” Therefore we approach entitlement as a more general construct that is not always about relative deservingness. This perspective on entitlement is still differentiated from deservedness because an individual's accomplishments or needs are not being considered in the calculation of the score.

The Structure of Obligation and Entitlement

Researchers have developed a number of measures to capture individual tendencies toward self-interest and other-orientation. Researchers studying single constructs such as psychological entitlement (Campbell et al., 2004), narcissism (Raskin & Terry, 1988), prosocial personality (Penner et al., 1995), or other-orientation (Meglino & Korsgaard, 2004) tend to conceptualise these constructs as representing the continuum from good to bad. However, other researchers have argued that self-concern and other-orientation are best conceptualised as orthogonal constructs (De Dreu & Nauta, 2009). That is, self-interested traits should be studied in conjunction with prosocial traits as the absence of self-interest might not indicate prosocial tendencies. Also, the absence of a prosocial trait might not indicate that someone will act in a self-interested manner.

A number of other models of individual difference support a two-dimensional structure for obligation and entitlement. Psychological contracts focus on employee perceptions of the mutual obligations between the employee and the employer (Rousseau, 1989, 1990). Shore and Barksdale (1998) developed a model of exchange relationships implied in psychological contracts by crossing employer and employee obligations. Within this framework, employer obligations are obligations that the employee believes that the employer should have, not obligations acknowledged by the employer. These perceived obligations of the employer can be considered the entitlements of the employee. When employer and employee obligations were either both high or both low, the relationship was considered balanced. When employer or employee obligations were high and the other party's obligations were low, then the relationship was considered to be unbalanced. These unbalanced relationships can be understood to represent the obligated employee and the entitled employee (Tsui, Pearce, Porter, & Tripoli, 1997). These relationships can also apply to more general, trait-like approaches to the world.

Equity sensitivity is an individual difference that developed out of research and theorising on equity theory (Mowday, 1991). Huseman, Hatfield, and Miles (1987) defined equity sensitivity as the extent to which people respond to situations of perceived inequality due to their preferences for equality. Huseman and colleagues divided people into Benevolents, Equity Sensitives, and Entitleds based on their equity sensitivity. Specifically, Benevolents show altruistic tendencies and prefer to give more than they receive relative to others. Equity sensitives prefer an equitable ratio of inputs to outputs as equity theory generally predicts. Entitleds prefer to receive more than they put in relative to others. These individual differences have been shown to affect organisational outcomes such as perceived pay fairness, pay satisfaction, and intention to quit, with Benevolents perceiving their pay as fairer, having higher satisfaction, and holding lower intentions to quit (Shore, 2004).

Social value orientation was developed from research based on social interdependence theory (Deutsch, 1949). Social value orientation categorises individuals into individualists, competitors, and cooperators based on their responses to a number of decomposed game theory situations (Van Lange, 1999). If people respond consistently to one pattern of point allocation, then they are categorised into a specific social value orientation. Often individualists and competitors are combined to make a proself category and cooperators are designated prosocials. These three orientations predict cooperative, competitive, and avoidant behaviors (Rusbult & Van Lange, 2003). Social value orientation has been linked to a variety of interactional patterns outside of experimental situations including relationship behaviors of commitment, willingness to compromise (Van Lange, Agnew, Harinck, & Stemmers, 1997), and volunteering behavior—a common behavior of the prosocial disposition (Carlo, Okun, Knight, & de Guzman, 2005). Social value orientation has also been shown to relate to attachment styles and change throughout the lifespan (Van Lange, Otten, De Bruin, & Joireman, 1997).

Based on this research, we propose an orthogonal structure for self-perceptions of obligation and entitlement to capture these tendencies toward self-interest and other-orientation. The expected structure of obligation and entitlement is shown in Figure 1. The Proself and Prosocial categories of the social value orientation should fall into the Self-Interested and Other-Oriented quadrants of Obligation and Entitlement. The Benevolent and Entitleds of the equity sensitivity should fall into the same general areas with the equity sensitivity line running along the independent to interdependent continuum.

  • Hypothesis 1: Obligation and entitlement are independent constructs.
figure

Figure 1. Obligation and Entitlement social orientations.

Note: This model looks look similar to the Obligated and Entitled categories from Shore and Barksdale's (1998) description of the social exchange in the psychological contract.

Download figure to PowerPoint

Group Differences in Obligation and Entitlement

Given that obligation and entitlement are conceptualised as a fundamental way of understanding how people view society and their role in that society, it is important to think about how different social groups would be placed in the obligation and entitlement theoretical space. This paper begins this investigation with age, gender, and culture.

Age

Over the last decade it has been argued that younger generations are becoming increasingly narcissistic and entitled compared to members of previous generations (Twenge, Konrath, Foster, Campbell, & Bushman, 2008). While some researchers have argued that this change is due to generational differences, other researchers have argued that changes in levels of personality traits over time are due to the process of aging (Roberts, Edmonds, & Grijalva, 2010; Roberts, Walton, & Viechtbauer, 2006). Whether due to generational differences or maturation, several studies have indicated that narcissism is negatively related to age (e.g. Stinson, Dawson, Goldstein, Chou, Huang, Smith, Ruan, Pulay, Saha, Pickering, & Grant, 2008; Twenge et al., 2008; Wilson & Sibley, 2011). These findings on narcissism support the argument that there may also be age differences in the related trait of entitlement. In the past, it has been argued that older generations may have increased self-interest which is expressed through political attitudes and social spending (Street & Cossman, 2006). Street and Cossman (2006), however, found that support for government spending which would primarily benefit older generations actually decreased after middle age. Similarly, Levy and Schlesinger (2005) found that, compared to younger participants, older participants were more opposed to increasing spending on government programs primarily considered to benefit them (e.g. social security and Medicare). Given these findings, entitlement is expected to be negatively related to age. Despite suggestions by researchers that older generations may be more dutiful, research has not shown age differences in other-orientation more broadly. Therefore, obligation is not expected to be related to age.

  • Hypothesis 2: Entitlement, but not obligation, will decrease with age.
Gender

Research has shown that men and women tend to differ on a variety of different traits and behaviors. For example, it has repeatedly been shown that women tend to display more communal traits than men (i.e. friendliness, concern for others, and emotional expressiveness) and tend to behave in ways that emphasise connections with others (Eagly & Crowley, 1986). Also, when compared to men, women have greater preference for social involvement. This increased social involvement is likely to increase women's perceptions of their obligations to society. For example, Lloyd, Heinfeldt, and Wolf (2008) found that women had higher expectations for their organisations' levels of social responsibility, especially community responsibility. Given this gender difference, it is expected that women will score higher on obligation. In addition, given the proposed orthogonal relationship between obligation and entitlement, women's increased emphasis on social involvement and interaction may also increase their expectations for these situations. Because women are putting more into social interactions, they may also expect more out of these situations. Therefore, women are also expected to score higher on entitlement. This would put them in the proposed interdependent category which consists of high perceptions of both obligation and entitlement.

  • Hypothesis 3: Females will have higher scores on both obligation and entitlement than males.
Culture

National culture is often considered to have an important impact on the relationship between psychological variables. Early cross-cultural research focused on identifying dimensions that could be used to compare/contrast different countries. One of the most frequently studied cultural dimensions is individualism versus collectivism (Triandis, 1995). This dimension has been described as being “I” conscious (individualism) versus being “we” conscious (collectivism; Hofstede, 1983). Cultural dimensions are thought to manifest in an individual's self-construal, with a person from collectivist cultures more likely to have an interdependent self-construal and a person from individualistic cultures more likely to have an independent self-construal (Markus & Kitayama, 1991). Research has suggested that individualistic cultures encourage greater self-interest while collectivist cultures encourage greater other-interest (Zondag, Van Halen, & Wojtkowiak, 2009).

Minkov and Hofstede (2012) validated the use of countries as a unit of analysis. In their study, countries were found to have distinct cultures even when strong subcultures (e.g. different language or religious groups) existed within a country. This finding supports the common practice of labeling geographic regions, such as countries, according to their typically ascribed values rather than measuring culture directly. Foster, Campbell, and Twenge (2003) found that world regions typically associated with individualism (i.e. the United States, Europe, and Canada) have significantly higher mean levels of narcissism when compared to regions that are considered to be high on collectivism (i.e. Asia and the Middle East). Research has also found that people in China, a country high on collectivism, have higher levels of obligation to expend personal resources when compared to Americans (Cai, Fink, & Xie, 2012). Given these previous findings, it is expected that obligation will be higher and entitlement will be lower among people in countries high on collectivism, while the reverse is expected among people in countries high on individualism.

  • Hypothesis 4: Cultures with higher levels of collectivism will score higher on obligation and lower on entitlement.

Entitlement and Obligation in the Workplace and Society

While group differences in obligation and entitlement are important to understanding the constructs, the primary utility of obligation and entitlement come from their predictive validity in society and in the workplace. The following section describes the influence of obligation and entitlement on prosocial behavior, work engagement, and workplace behavior.

Prosocial Behavior

Prosocial behaviors are behaviors that are intended to help other people (Penner, Dovidio, Piliavin, & Schroeder, 2005). The following section describes the prosocial behaviors of volunteering and charitable giving. It also describes how obligation and entitlement are expected to be related to these measures of the prosocial disposition.

Volunteering is prosocial action in an organisational context that is planned and continues for an extended period of time (Penner, 2002). There is a large body of research into the contexts and motivations involved in volunteering (e.g. Clary, Snyder, Ridge, Copeland, Stukas, Haugen, & Miene, 1998; Penner, 2002). Previous researchers have suggested that volunteering is less likely to result from personal obligations than other helping behaviors because of the planning required to join a volunteering organisation (Omoto & Snyder, 1995). However, one of the primary functional motives for volunteering is values. The values motivation for volunteering could be strongly influenced by obligation. Individuals' beliefs that they owe society should lead directly to volunteering behavior. For example, Einolf (2010) found that extensivity (broad feelings of obligation to both those close to you and others with whom you have no personal relationship) is positively related to prosocial behaviors such as volunteering and charitable giving. Though self-interest has also been argued to play a role in volunteering (e.g. feeling better about one's self and building friendships), individuals who believe that they are owed by society should avoid volunteering because they are not getting what they deserve. This may go beyond simple self-interest and extend into perceptions of fairness and equity.

There are broad differences in charitable giving throughout the world and across the political spectrum (Brooks, 2006). Like volunteering, charitable giving may occur for a variety of reasons including a person's values. Charitable giving should be motivated by obligation and entitlement. Individuals' beliefs that they owe society should lead directly to charitable giving. For example, both Smith and McSweeney (2007) and Knowles, Hyde, and White (2012) found that moral obligation was a significant predictor of intention to donate money to charity. Individuals who believe that they are owed by society should avoid giving to charity because they are not getting what they deserve.

  • Hypothesis 5a: Obligation will be positively related to volunteering and charitable giving.
  • Hypothesis 5b: Entitlement will be negatively related to volunteering and charitable giving.
Work Engagement

Organisational scholars have developed a large body of job attitudes for evaluating how individuals perceive their work environment including job satisfaction, organisational commitment, and job involvement (Schleicher, Hansen, & Fox, 2010). More recently, researchers have developed a number of measures of engagement to attempt to assess a more involved approach to job evaluation. For example, May, Gilson, and Harter (2004) developed a measure of employees' cognitive, emotional, and physical engagement with work. While there has been a lot of debate about the best conceptualisation of engagement (e.g. Dalal, Brummel, Wee, & Thomas, 2008; Macey & Schneider, 2008), most scholars agree that it covers a broad range of work evaluations. Individuals who feel a strong sense of obligation should manifest that belief in engagement in the workplace as well as in the prosocial behaviors in society. Entitled employees might not initially demonstrate any lack of engagement, but research suggests that upon not receiving an outcome that is perceived as deserved, they will react negatively in the workplace (Fisk, 2010; Harvey & Martinko, 2009). These reactions may include a decrease in engagement with work.

  • Hypothesis 6a: Obligation will be positively related to work engagement.
  • Hypothesis 6b: Entitlement will be negatively related to work engagement.
Workplace Behavior

The resurgence in interest in personality traits has been ascribed to the demonstrated predictive validity of these traits for predicting job performance in a number of large-scale meta-analyses (Barrick & Mount, 1991; Hogan & Holland, 2003; Tett, Jackson, & Rothstein, 1991). Later research has demonstrated the usefulness of predicting a wider conceptualisation of workplace behaviors using personality traits. Current research suggests that these workplace behaviors should include organisational citizenship behaviors (OCBs) and counterproductive work behaviors (CWBs) in addition to task performance to cover the primary domains of work performance (Sackett & Lievens, 2008). While these broad classes of workplace performance behaviors can be further broken down into interpersonally and organisationally oriented behaviors (e.g. Hoffman, Blair, Meriac, & Woehr, 2007), these broad areas of behavior should at least be covered in comprehensive research on the organisational effectiveness of individual employees.

Previous research into self-concern and other-orientation has demonstrated that these constructs are related to task performance, CWBs, and OCBs. De Dreu and Nauta (2009) found that both self-concern and other-orientation were positively related to performance and supervisor ratings of prosocial behavior. Harvey and Harris (2010) found that entitlement was positively associated with both political behavior and co-worker abuse. Fisk (2010) found that entitled employees are at more risk of engaging in CWBs.

  • Hypothesis 7a: Obligation will be positively related to task performance.
  • Hypothesis 7b: Entitlement will be negatively related to task performance.
  • Hypothesis 8a: Obligation will be positively related to OCBs.
  • Hypothesis 8b: Entitlement will be negatively related to OCBs.
  • Hypothesis 9a: Obligation will be negatively related to CWBs.
  • Hypothesis 9b: Entitlement will be positively related to CWBs.

Current Research

The research was designed to examine the usefulness of the entitlement and obligation framework for predicting and understanding behavior in society and the workplace. To accomplish this goal, two studies were conducted looking at various aspects of the relationship between obligation and entitlement, the influence of cultural and identity variables on levels of obligation and entitlement, and the prediction of various behavioral outcomes. Together these studies provide a broad picture of obligation and entitlement as important individual differences for understanding people in the workplace and the broader society.

Methods

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Methods
  5. Study 1
  6. Study 2
  7. Results
  8. Discussion
  9. Conclusion
  10. References
  11. Appendix

Scale Development

The obligation and entitlement constructs that have been discussed throughout this paper focus on individual beliefs about obligations and entitlements. Their definitions dictate that obligation and entitlement should be focused on cognitive, identity-based aspects of these traits. This means that the measures of obligation and entitlement should be self-report and be written to focus on thoughts while avoiding the affect and behaviors that might be related to obligation or entitlement. This strategy was taken to create relatively narrow, homogeneous constructs useful for examining the interrelationships with feelings and behavioral outcomes.

Individual items were developed to assess the personal belief in an individual's obligation and entitlement. Specifically items were phrased using I ought to, I should, I owe, etc. for obligation and People should, I deserve, I have the right, etc. for entitlement items. These stems were applied to a number of areas of social life and individual outcomes relevant for obligation and entitlement. It is worth noting that the phrasing of I ought and People should are somewhat different from other trait measures that focus on what people typically do. These items instead focus on what individuals believe the state of things should be. Again, this is similar to the “ought self” in self-discrepancy discussed previously (Higgins, 1987). It is also similar to the approach taken in the GLOBE studies asking about cultural dimensions as values (House, Hanges, Javidan, Dorfman, & Gupta, 2004). This is also one of the major differences between obligation and entitlement and other trait measures.

One hundred and sixty items were initially written to reflect typical thoughts of people concerning their level of obligation (60 items) and entitlement (100 items) within society. Twenty-five of the items considered to be the most clearly written and non-overlapping in content were chosen for each construct to comprise the initial items for the development of the Obligation and Entitlement Scale (OES). These items were used in Study 1.

Study 1

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Methods
  5. Study 1
  6. Study 2
  7. Results
  8. Discussion
  9. Conclusion
  10. References
  11. Appendix

Participants

Responses were collected from 10,822 people from 141 countries. Because of the size of samples for many non-North American countries, the countries were divided into geographic (continental) regions aligned with the United Nations groupings (Internet World Stats: Usage and Population Statistics, 2012). Responses were primarily from North America (8,542, 79%). Most respondents were young (M = 33, SD = 12). A majority of the respondents were female (7,869, 73%) and white (7,974, 74%). The respondents were highly educated with 47 per cent having attained at least a college degree. Thirty-seven per cent of the participants indicated that they were married. Thirty-six per cent had at least one child. Seventy-eight per cent of the participants were currently employed at the time of the survey.

Procedures

To attract participants, the URL for the survey was initially distributed through one of the authors' informal networks of acquaintances, friends, and family. It was also linked to www.planetpersonality.com and www.yourpersonality.net web pages. The www.planetpersonality.com site no longer exists in the form used for this data collection. Survey responses were periodically saved from the website from 24 November 2006 through 10 February 2009. Participants indicated having read and understood the approved Institutional Review Board Informed Consent by clicking on a button to continue the survey. This consent form was the first page in the survey. A single question asking participants, “Have you taken this survey before?” was used to screen for individuals taking the survey more than one time. Participants were removed from the survey analysis if they indicated that they had taken the survey before.1

Measures

Fifty items written to measure obligation and entitlement (25 for each construct) were presented to each participant in a randomised order. Participants were asked to indicate the degree to which each statement reflected their beliefs. The response scale was a 5-point, Likert-type rating scale with the following anchors: strongly disagree, disagree, neutral, agree, strongly agree.

Prosocial behavior was measured using participants' self-reported frequency of volunteering and charitable giving. To assess volunteering, participants were asked to report the average number of hours that they spend volunteering per week. Most participants reported no volunteering hours (6,461, 67%). To assess charitable giving, participants were asked to report the percentage of their income that they donated to charity. Almost half of the participants (4,570, 48%) reported giving none of their income to charity.

Organisational citizenship behavior was measured using 10 individually focused, organisational citizenship behavior (OCB-I) items from Podsakoff, MacKenzie, Moorman, and Fetter (1990). For this study, the items were modified for self-report. This modification changed the focus of the item from describing a person in the workplace to describing the person filling out the survey. For example, “Takes steps to try to prevent problems with other workers” was changed to “I take steps to try to prevent problems with other workers.” This scale used the same 5-point Likert-type rating scale as the obligation and entitlement items.

Study 22

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Methods
  5. Study 1
  6. Study 2
  7. Results
  8. Discussion
  9. Conclusion
  10. References
  11. Appendix

Participants

The primary participants for this study were 207 employees recruited from the Midwestern United States and Washington, DC. Fifty-eight of these employees' supervisors also participated in the study. These employees came from a variety of industries and organisations. Data on participants whose supervisors did not choose to participate were used for the analyses of self-report data. Both employee and supervisor participants were paid 10 dollars for their participation in this study.

Employee participants were relatively young with an average age of 32 years. A majority of the participants were female (144, 70%). Seventy-seven per cent of participants described themselves as Caucasian or white. Most of the participants had a degree beyond high school (127, 61%). Fifty per cent of the participants indicated that they were single.

Supervisor participants were older with an average age of 37 years. A majority of the supervisors were female (45, 79%). Ninety-five per cent of supervisors described themselves as Caucasian or white. Most of the participants had a degree beyond high school (43, 73%). Seventy-five per cent of the participants indicated that they were married.

Procedures

Participants were recruited through advertisements and informal networks of relationships with the first author and his colleagues. Participants then asked their supervisors to participate in the study. Participants were given the opportunity to complete either a paper or an online survey version. Employees and supervisors mailed their packets directly back to the researchers, so one person did not have access to the other person's responses. Approximately half of the participants completed a web-based version of the survey. Their supervisors were given a link to the supervisor version of the survey.

Measures

Eighteen of the 50 items written to measure obligation and entitlement were given to participants. The approach to selecting these items is described later in the manuscript. Items measuring obligation and entitlement were interspersed with each other. The same response scale as in Study 1 was used.

Work Engagement was measured using a 13-item scale developed by May and colleagues (2004). Supervisors completed a 12-item version of this scale about the employee. The items were changed to have the words “This employee” as a referent so that it was clear to the supervisor that the employee was the target of the responses. The item “Time passes quickly when I perform my job” was removed because of a supervisor's inability to access that information about the employee's thoughts about the workday.

Employees' task and citizenship performance was measured using Williams and Anderson's (1991) 21-item measure of in-role behaviors, organisationally focused organisational citizenship behaviors (OCB-O), and individually focused organisational citizenship behaviors (OCB-I). Each type of performance was measured with seven items. Employees were also rated by their supervisor on this measure.

Employees' counterproductive work behaviors were measured using Bennett and Robinson's (2000) scale indicating the frequency with which they engage in 19 different counterproductive behaviors. Employees were also rated by their supervisor on this measure.

Analytic Strategies

The independence of Obligation and Entitlement was tested by calculating the correlations between the two scales in both studies at both the manifest and latent level of analysis. The relationship between Age and both Obligation and Entitlement was tested by calculating the correlations between the two scales and Age in both studies. The relationship between Gender and both Obligation and Entitlement was tested by calculating t-tests on the mean differences between males and females on the two scales in both studies. The relationship between Culture and both Obligation and Entitlement was tested by calculating an ANOVA on the mean differences between regions on the two scales in Study 1. The relationship between prosocial behaviors and both Obligation and Entitlement was tested by calculating the correlations between the two scales and both Volunteering and Charitable Giving in Study 1. The relationship between workplace constructs and both Obligation and Entitlement was tested by calculating the correlations between the two scales and these constructs in both studies. In addition, because both Obligation and Entitlement and the prosocial and workplace behaviors are related to age and gender, the incremental predictive validity of both Obligation and Entitlement over these demographic variables was examined using hierarchical regression.

Results

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Methods
  5. Study 1
  6. Study 2
  7. Results
  8. Discussion
  9. Conclusion
  10. References
  11. Appendix

Scale Development

The 50 items written to measure obligation and entitlement were examined for internal consistency and cross-loadings using item–total correlations, alpha reliabilities, and exploratory factor analytic techniques. Based on the inter-item correlations, cross-loadings, and item content, both scales were reduced to nine items each. The nine-item scales measuring obligation and entitlement are presented in Table 1. More information about this scale development process can be found in Brummel (2008).

Table 1. Obligation and Entitlement Scale (OES) Items
Obligation
1. I ought to spend more time helping others
2. I ought to sacrifice my goals to help others reach their goals
3. I feel obligated to contribute to the community
4. I have a duty to help others when I can
5. It is my duty to make the world a better place
6. I owe a debt to society
7. I owe my community for all that it has done for me
8. I have a duty to attend various events in my community
9. I should give up my lunch break to help someone at my job
Entitlement
1. I deserve to be happy
2. I have the right not to be judged
3. I deserve the respect of others
4. I have a right to a good job
5. I deserve to be safe and protected from crime
6. I deserve the best medical care possible
7. People should listen to my opinions
8. I deserve to have high self-esteem
9. I deserve to be successful

Both of the nine-item measures have adequate internal consistency reliability (Obligation α = .81; Entitlement α = .84). This scale, named the Obligation and Entitlement Scale (OES), is used for the remainder of this paper to measure obligation and entitlement. In Study 2, both of the nine-item measures again had adequate internal consistency reliability (Obligation α = .80; Entitlement α = .89). In both studies, Obligation scores were lower than Entitlement scores. In Study 1, the mean for Obligation was 3.06 and the mean for Entitlement was 3.92. A paired samples t-test showed that this is a significant difference (t = −90.09, p < .05, d = −0.88). In Study 2, the mean for Obligation was 3.36 and the mean for Entitlement was 4.07. A paired samples t-test showed that this is a significant difference (t = −13.58, p < .05, d = −0.95). These results call into question the idea that Obligation is more socially desirable than Entitlement. Full descriptive statistics and correlations for Study 1 and Study 2 are present in Table 2 and Table 6, respectively. There was additional convergent and discriminant validity evidence for the OES that was beyond the scope of this manuscript to discuss. However, more evidence is presented in the Appendix.

Table 2. Descriptive Statistics and Correlations
 MeasureMSD1.2.3.4.5.
  1. Notes: * p < .05. Coefficient alpha reliabilities are presented on the diagonal.

  2. OCB-I = Interpersonal Organisational Citizenship Behaviors.

  3. Correlations with OCB-I are from 8,015 employed participants only.

1.Obligation3.060.72.81    
2.Entitlement3.930.71.05*.84   
3.OCB-I4.100.59.39*.14*.86  
4.Volunteering2.286.66.10*−.01.03* 
5.Giving2.765.01.21*−.08*.10*.26*
6.Age32.811.7.03*−.12*.09*.04*.14*

Hypothesis 1

Hypothesis 1 stated that obligation and entitlement were independent constructs. In Study 1, the correlation between Obligation and Entitlement was small but significantly different from zero (r = .05, p < .05). Similarly, the standardised estimate of the relationship between the corresponding latent factors of obligation and entitlement in a confirmatory factor analysis was small but significant (ϕ = .07, p < .05). In Study 2, the correlation between Obligation and Entitlement was larger (r = .29, p < .05). The standardised estimate of the relationship between the latent factors was similar in magnitude (ϕ = .35, p < .05). While these results fail to support statistical independence between Obligation and Entitlement, the measures do not appear to be opposite approaches to measuring the same spectrum.

Hypothesis 2

Hypothesis 2 stated that entitlement, but not obligation, would decrease with age. Entitlement was negatively correlated with Age in both Study 1 (r = −.12, p < .05) and Study 2 (r = −.18, p < .05). Obligation had a small positive correlation with Age in Study 1 (r = .03, p < .05) and was not significantly related to Age in Study 2 (r = −.06).

Hypothesis 3

Hypothesis 3 stated that females would be more obligated and more entitled than males. Table 3 shows the means and effect sizes for the gender differences for both studies. All of the results were in the expected direction, but the gender difference for Obligation was not significant in Study 2. The effects for Entitlement were notably larger than for Obligation.

Table 3. Gender Differences
 MaleFemaled
NMSDNMSD
  1. Notes: d = Cohen's mean difference effect size statistic.

  2. * p < .05.

Study 1       
Obligation28823.000.8077153.080.68−.11*
Entitlement28733.720.8177194.000.65−.40*
Study 2       
Obligation633.330.561433.390.59−.10
Entitlement633.790.721434.190.60−.63*

Hypothesis 4

Hypothesis 4 stated that cultures with higher levels of collectivism would have higher scores on obligation and lower scores on entitlement. The results for all of the regions along with the mean difference tests with Scheffe corrections are displayed in Table 4. The results from Study 1 generally support this hypothesis for Obligation as Asia had significantly higher scores than Europe and North America. Africa also had significantly higher Obligation scores than Europe.

Table 4. Geographical Descriptive Statistics
Geographic regionNMSDdfFpScheffe
  1. Note: Groups are organised from smallest to largest based on the mean for the group. The degrees of freedom column is organised as degrees of freedom within, degrees of freedom between, and degrees of freedom total. The Scheffe column lists the groups that are significantly different from the group in that row at a value of p < .05 with the Scheffe correction.

Obligation      
1. Europe6552.89.74715.7.005,6,8
2. Oceania1792.98.6910385  8
3. Central and South America1262.99.7710389  8
4. The Caribbean1133.06.74   
5. North America85423.06.71   1,8
6. Middle East543.17.77   
7. Africa1133.18.80   1
8. Asia6113.29.67   1,2,3,5
Entitlement      
1. Europe6663.89.72716.8.006,7,8
2. North America85273.90.7110385  6,7,8
3. Oceania1823.95.6810389  
4. The Caribbean1124.14.69   
5. Africa1124.14.64   
6. Asia6114.14.62   1,2
7. Central and South America1254.20.67   1,2
8. Middle East554.28.54   1,2

However, the results for Entitlement were not as expected. Asia, Africa, and South and Central America had significantly higher scores on Entitlement than Europe and North America. These results seem to indicate a general pattern of different levels of social investment as indicated by collectivism. That is, Obligation is paired with Entitlement in a way that reflects regional differences in interdependence rather than in self-interest as shown in Figure 1.

Hypothesis 5

Hypothesis 5 stated that obligation would be positively related to volunteering and charitable giving while entitlement would be negatively related to these prosocial behaviors. This hypothesis was examined in Study 1. Obligation was positively correlated with both Volunteering (r = .10, p < .05) and Charitable Giving (r = .21, p < .05). Entitlement had a negative correlation with Charitable Giving (r = −.08, p < .05) but was not significantly related to Volunteering (r = −.01). Because both Obligation and Entitlement had significant relationships with Charitable Giving, a hierarchical multiple regression was conducted to examine the incremental prediction of these outcomes beyond Gender and Age. Table 5 displays the standardised regression weights and incremental prediction for Obligation and Entitlement. For both Volunteering and Charitable Giving, including Obligation increases the predictive power of the model. For Charitable Giving, including Entitlement also increases the predictive power of the model.

Table 5. Study 1 Hierarchical Regressions
 PredictorVolunteeringCharitable GivingStudy 1 OCB-IsStudy 2 OCB-IsStudy 2 CWBs
ΔR2βΔR2βΔR2βΔR2βΔR2β
  1. Notes: Beta weights are standardised and refer to the full model.

  2. * p < .05.

  3. Regression with Study 1 OCB-I is for the 8,015 employed participants only.

Step 1 .001* .021* .016* .035* .220* 
 Gender .001 .040* .058* .118 −.296*
 Age .034* .121* .085* .107 −.299*
Step 2 .011* .047* .160* .047* .029* 
 Obligation .102* .207* .378* .162* −.152*
 Entitlement −.009 −.080* .120* .118 −.050
Total R2 .012* .068* .177* .081* .249* 
Table 6. Study 2 Descriptive Statistics and Correlations
 MSD1.2.3.4.5.6.7.8.9.10.11.12.13.
  1. Notes: * p < .05.

  2. Coefficient alpha reliabilities are presented on the diagonal.

Self-Rated
 1. Obligation3.370.58.80            
 2. Entitlement4.070.66.29*.89           
 3. Engagement3.370.57.15*.04.81          
 4. Performance6.290.81.04.15*.29*.73         
 5. CWB1.780.74−.16*−.13−.26*−.48*.90        
 6. OCB-I5.231.23.20*.17*.20*.25*−.23*.87       
 7. OCB-O5.840.91.12.09.36*.54*−.61*.36*.71      
 8. Age31.814.0−.06−.18*.26*.28*−.35*.09.26*     
Supervisor Rated
 9. Engagement3.340.54.28*−.21.47*.26−.29*.14.37*.17.77    
10. Performance6.430.97.13.20.20.54*−.65*.17.52*.28*.49*.92   
11. CWB1.550.70−.05−.08−.08−.48*.58*−.24−.50*−.30*−.48*−.74*.91  
12. OCB-I5.441.05.12.04−.05.15−.30*.16.20.06.35*.47*−.33*.79 
13. OCB-O5.850.96.19−.04.23.38*−.42*.17.49*.21.52*.66*−.62*.46*.68

Hypothesis 6

Hypothesis 6 stated that obligation, but not entitlement, would be positively related to engagement at work. This hypothesis was examined in Study 2. Obligation was positively correlated both self-rated (r = .15, p < .05) and supervisor-rated (r = .28, p < .05) engagement. Entitlement was not significantly correlated with either self-rated (r = .04) or supervisor-rated (r = −.21) Engagement.

Hypothesis 7

Hypothesis 7 stated that obligation would predict higher task performance while entitlement would be related to lower task performance. This hypothesis was examined Study 2. Unexpectedly, Entitlement was related to higher self-rated task performance (r = .15, p < .05). None of the other relationships were significant for self-rated or supervisor-rated behaviors. It appears that being entitled does not lead to lower perception of task performance.

Hypothesis 8

Hypothesis 8 stated that obligation would positively predict organisational citizenship behaviors while entitlement would predict fewer organisational citizenship behaviors. This hypothesis was examined in both Study 1 and Study 2. Across both studies, Obligation predicted more self-reported OCB-Is (Study 1 r = .41, p < .05; Study 2 r = .20, p < .05). Unexpectedly, Entitlement also predicted more self-reported OCB-Is (Study 1 r = .13, p < .05; Study 2 r = .17, p < .05). Entitlement does not appear to suppress individuals' perceptions of their interpersonal helping behavior in the workplace. The relationships with OCB-Os were not significant for self- or supervisor ratings of these behaviors.

Because both Obligation and Entitlement had significant relationships with OCB-Is, hierarchical multiple regressions were conducted to examine the incremental prediction of OCB-Is beyond Gender and Age for both Study 1 and Study 2. The standardised regression weights and incremental prediction for Obligation and Entitlement are shown in Table 5. In both Study 1 and Study 2, adding Obligation and Entitlement to the prediction of OCB-Is significantly increased the prediction over Age and Gender alone. However, the increased prediction from Entitlement was not significant for Study 2.

Hypothesis 9

Hypothesis 9 stated that obligation would negatively predict counterproductive work behaviors while entitlement would positively predict counterproductive work behaviors. This hypothesis was examined in Study 2. Obligation was related to fewer self-reported CWBs (r = −.16, p < .05). Entitlement was also related to fewer self-reported CWBs (r = −.13, p < .05). The relationships were not significant for supervisor-rated CWBs.

Because both Obligation and Entitlement had significant relationships with CWBs, a hierarchical multiple regression was conducted to examine the incremental prediction of CWB beyond Gender and Age. The standardised regression weights and incremental prediction for Obligation and Entitlement are shown in Table 5. Adding Obligation and Entitlement to the prediction of CWBs significantly increased the prediction over Age and Gender alone. However, the increased prediction from Entitlement was not significant.

Discussion

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Methods
  5. Study 1
  6. Study 2
  7. Results
  8. Discussion
  9. Conclusion
  10. References
  11. Appendix

The Discussion is divided into three broad areas that cover the findings of the two studies about obligation and entitlement. First, we discuss findings related to the measurement of obligation and entitlement, followed by discussion of group differences in obligation and entitlement. Third, we review results related to the prediction of behaviors in society and the workplace. We conclude with a review of limitations and future directions for research on obligation and entitlement.

The Measurement of Entitlement and Obligation

These studies described the creation of a framework for using obligation and entitlement to differentiate between self-interested and other-oriented tendencies. In both Study 1 and Study 2, the nine items selected to measure obligation and entitlement were internally consistent and relatively independent. While the relationship between the scales was only essentially orthogonal in Study 1, the general results provided support for the theoretical structure of the measure derived from De Dreu and Nauta's (2009) work and two other dimensional models. Using obligation and entitlement together allows for a classification scheme that differentiates independent or interdependent tendencies from purely other-oriented or self-interested tendencies. This structure should prove useful in understanding the degree to which other personality traits and tendencies reflect purely self-interested tendencies or more general interdependence.

Group Differences in Entitlement and Obligation

Overall, there were some interesting group differences in obligation and entitlement. The decrease in entitlement as people age may be an indication of maturity. As people age, they do not need as many resources from others in the community, and they may learn that some of the things they previously thought they were owed are not coming to them. More research needs to be done to understand the development of obligation and entitlement and what experiences might lead to changes in these beliefs. Specifically, one reviewer suggested that entitlement might increase again in old age as resources from the community are needed again. Our sample did not include many participants in this age range, but further research should examine this potential curvilinear relationship pattern.

Figure 2 plots the gender differences and geographical differences centered on the mean scores for the survey. The results for both gender and culture seem to reflect differences in interdependence. Both the gender differences and most of the geographical differences tend to fall within the quadrants representing differing levels of social exchange rather than tendencies for one gender or region to be more other-oriented or self-interested. This reflects both typical findings on gender differences and the East–West differences in collectivism that seem to be manifest in relative levels of interdependence shown in obligation and entitlement beliefs.

figure

Figure 2. Study 1 geographic and gender differences in Obligation and Entitlement.

Notes: Axes are centered on sample averages for Obligation and Entitlement. Each graph mark is .1 scale points on the 5-point scale. The position of the group is marked by the *.

Download figure to PowerPoint

However, these results assume that participants from these regions interpreted and answered the Obligation and Entitlement items in equivalent ways. This assumption could be tested with a full set of measurement equivalence analyses (Vandenberg & Lance, 2000); however, this analysis was beyond the scope of this manuscript. This concern is somewhat mitigated by the fact that all of the participants completed the scales in English. In addition, the sample size for most of the regions is small for measure equivalence analyses. That being said, further research is needed to attribute these results to the culture differences in these geographic regions especially with respect to social investment.

Entitlement and Obligation in the Workplace and Society

Across the two studies, Obligation was generally predictive of prosocial behavior and organisational effectiveness as expected. Obligated individuals are more likely to volunteer, give to charity, help their co-workers, and be engaged in their work. These outcomes do not show any of the negative connotations of obligation that have been previously suggested in other areas of work (e.g. Gagné & Deci, 2005; Omoto & Snyder, 1995). However, it is possible that individuals who are high on obligation are susceptible to manipulation or display lower levels of self-esteem. These potential negative consequences should be investigated further. Overall, obligation does not appear to be a clearly good or bad trait, but it does appear to be influential in driving at least some prosocial behavior.

Entitlement, measured as this general sense of deservedness, does not seem to have the negative influence that has been shown in other contexts. While it does appear that entitlement leads people to be less involved in their societies in terms of volunteering and giving to charity, entitlement does not consistently predict a lack of prosocial behavior or general lack of organisational effectiveness. Supervisors may have noticed the lack of engagement among entitled workers, but they did not rate these workers as significantly poorer performers or less effective workers overall. Entitlement may only manifest in cases where specific, expected outcomes are not received in the workplace rather than being a broad predictor of negative workplace outcomes (e.g. Fisk, 2010; Harvey & Martinko, 2009).

Limitations and Future Directions

While this paper has a number of methodological strengths including the large, international sample and other reports of some workplace behaviors, there are a number of limitations in this research that should be addressed in future work on obligation and entitlement. First, although these results show some promise for the use of obligation and entitlement in understanding a variety of self-interested and other-oriented behaviors, these studies did not include other measures of personality traits. We have included some initial evidence for these relationships in the Appendix, but future studies should continue to investigate the incremental validity and construct validity between obligation and entitlement with both Five-Factor Model traits and other approaches to prosocial personality and entitlement.

Second, the outcomes examined in this study, while important for society and the workplace, are relatively limited. These studies did not include a full sampling of social behaviors that might be influenced by a sense of obligation or entitlement. This research could further unpack the situations for which entitlement might be good and obligation might be bad. For example, a sense of entitlement might lead to leaving situations that are not fulfilling or healthy. A sense of obligation might be bad for work–life balance as obligation toward their employer might keep a person from their family life. Self-interest and other-orientation are not inherently good or bad. Individual tendencies toward entitlement and obligation are also likely to have both positive and negative consequences. By removing the inherently negative aspect of entitlement that focuses on deserving more than others, and by adding obligation to the equation, the OES approach to understanding societal dispositions holds great promise for unpacking the role of obligation and entitlement in social and work life.

Third, all of the hypothesised relationships in this paper were linear. Benson and Campbell (2007) found curvilinear relationships between classes of derailers and leadership performance outcomes. In addition, traits like narcissism have relationships with positive outcomes in some circumstances (Grijalva & Harms, 2013). Theoretically, one would expect curvilinear relationships between obligation and entitlement and a number of outcome variables. As discussed previously, being high or low on these traits could be problematic in dealing with society, specifically some of the measures reported in the Appendix such as self-esteem and life satisfaction along with others such as relationship quality and career success.

Finally, the comparison of cultural differences in obligation and entitlement was limited by the convenience sampling and low participation from many countries. This was still a largely North American sample. There appear to be some broad cultural differences in obligation and entitlement, but this study only scratches the surface of what might be driving those differences. In addition, this study did not examine the equivalence of the measures of obligation and entitlement across these geographic regions. Obviously there are substantial differences within the broad geographic regions used in this study. Other, better measures of cultural differences and identities including political and religious affiliations may provide additional insight into the development of obligation and entitlement.

Conclusion

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Methods
  5. Study 1
  6. Study 2
  7. Results
  8. Discussion
  9. Conclusion
  10. References
  11. Appendix

This paper described the creation of a framework for using obligation and entitlement to differentiate between self-interested and other-oriented tendencies. These general senses of owing and deserving do not appear to be ends on the same self-interest spectrum. Obligation predicted prosocial behaviors in both society and the workplace. These constructs appear to be useful for understanding some group differences and explaining behavioral differences in society and organisations, but more research is needed to understand the broader usefulness and placement of these individual differences within the full spectrum of personality traits.

Footnotes
  1. 1

    These techniques for identifying participants who completed the survey more than one time resulted in the removal of 401 out of 11,223 (3.6%) responses.

  2. 2

    Portions of this dataset were used for another published study (Dalal, Baysinger, Brummel, & LeBreton, 2012). The substantive questions in these papers are unique. The previous study did not include the supervisor rating or the Obligation and Entitlement constructs. The only reused variables are self-ratings of Work Engagement, Task Performance, OCBs, and CWBs.

References

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  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Methods
  5. Study 1
  6. Study 2
  7. Results
  8. Discussion
  9. Conclusion
  10. References
  11. Appendix
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Appendix

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Methods
  5. Study 1
  6. Study 2
  7. Results
  8. Discussion
  9. Conclusion
  10. References
  11. Appendix

Construct Validity Correlations for Obligation and Entitlement

MeasureMSDObligationEntitlement
  1. Notes: * p < .05. Data are from a sample of 550 undergraduates from a large Midwestern university (Brummel, 2008). Obligation and Entitlement were measured using the same Obligation and Entitlement Scale (OES) as Study 1 and Study 2. Empathy and Helpfulness was measured using the Prosocial Personality Battery (PSB; Penner et al., 1995). Psychological Entitlement was measured with the Psychological Entitlement Scale (PES; Campbell et al., 2004). Narcissism was measured using the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI; Raskin & Terry, 1988). Life Satisfaction was measured using the Satisfaction with Life Scale (SWLS; Diener, Emmons, Larsen, & Griffin, 1985). Self-Esteem was measured using Rosenberg's (1965) scale. Gregariousness, Self-Assurance, Even Temper, Concern for Others, Conscientiousness, Originality, and Negative Valence were assessed with the Multi-Language Seven (ML7; Saucier, 2003).

Obligation3.340.53.79 
Entitlement4.080.58.18*.86
Empathy3.480.46.51*.20*
Helpfulness3.150.54.24*.07
Psychological Entitlement2.530.69−.16*.32*
Narcissism0.420.18−.09.21*
Life Satisfaction5.001.09.15*.18*
Self-Esteem3.150.49.02.28*
Gregariousness3.340.75.10*.17*
Self-Assurance2.320.56−.07−.18*
Even Temper2.930.72−.14*.06
Concern for Others3.880.54.26*.23*
Conscientious3.180.53.03.14*
Originality3.690.50.07.17*
Negative Valence1.990.55−.07−.23*