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Obligation and Entitlement in Society and the Workplace

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Abstract

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.

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