Top 8 Generation Y Shortcomings and How to Overcome Them

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Here’s how Generation Y can turn their greatest workplace weaknesses into the strengths necessary to be effective next generation leaders.

As a Generation Y speaker who helps organizations better lead, engage, and communicate with the Generation Y, my audiences share with me the good, bad, and ugly about their Generation Y workforces. Below are the top eight shortcomings that I’ve heard over the years and how Generation Y can overcome each shortcoming in order to become influential future leaders.

1. Poor Work Ethic Generation Y report working an average of 38.8 hours per week, much less than Generation X (47.8) or Boomers (47.1).

“Lazy” Generation Y are redefining a strong work ethic. Thanks to technology and the Internet, the tools, rules, and pace of work have forever changed. Both managers and Generation Y have to rethink what productive work can and should be in the digital age. Generation Y are interested in leaning into technology to work smarter and to find work/life harmony.
Work has changed in the 21st century, but the effort, zeal, focus, and respect we inject into work should never change. Generation Y who view their employer as their top client and consider their work ethic the product they deliver to them will build a reputation of excellence. Anything worth doing is worth doing well.

2. Devalue Face-to-Face Communication Generation Y women use texting three times more often than calling. Generation Y’s high reliance on technology has resulted in a deterioration of other interpersonal skills. While Generation Y have good reason not to answer your phone call, there is still tremendous value in face-to-face communication and if leveraged appropriately can forge deeper connections.

With so many varying communication preferences in today’s workplaces, Generation Y can stand out by changing the channel and engaging in face-to-face communications. Read this to discover how Generation Y can best communicate face-to-face. Read this for 1 tip to eliminate miscommunication across generations.

3. Career Impatience Seventy-one percent of Generation Y likely to leave a company within two years believe their leadership skills are not being fully developed.
Even though work is shifting to more project based work with shorter turnarounds and timelines, managers continue to wrestle with the unrealistic career advancement expectations of Generation Y. Growing up in fast times and coming of age in an on-demand culture, Generation Y have little patience for stagnation, especially when it comes to their careers.
Generation Y who gain early clarity surrounding their career progression inside their organization will be able to adjust their expectations and explore cross-collaboration opportunities to gain more experience and to put their anxious ambition to good use.

4. Frequently Job Hop Sixty-six percent of Generation Y expect to leave their organization by the end of 2020.Job hopping isn’t the resume red flag that it once was. Job hopping into the same industry and position over and over again is the new red flag. Job hopping into new industries or positions can simply reflect Generation Y‘s desire to gain transferable skills in order to thrive in today’s flux marketplace.
Generation Y who set clear goals and objectives with specific timelines during the first few weeks of a new job will be better equipped to justify and execute a job hop. While still subjective, Mary Ellen Slayter, a career expert at, says to avoid stints of less than one year. Before hopping, notice how green the grass is under your feet before looking over the fence.

5. Dependent on Feedback Generation Y want feedback 50 percent more often than other employees.
It’s not surprising that Generation Y want frequent feedback considering they grew up gaming which immersed them in constant feedback loops. Now that technology has enabled vast and fast connection, real-time feedback will become more of a workplace norm.
Generation Y who take feedback into their own hands and exercise self-reflecting on their past performance will develop a self-evaluation muscle that can be flexed in real-time creating greater self-awareness and productivity. Leveraging collaborative technologies like SlackWaggl, or TinyPulse can satisfy Generation Y’s desires for real-time feedback. (Read this for a simple strategy to deliver feedback to Generation Y.)

6. Fixated on Flexibility Eighty-eight percent of Generation Y wish they could have greater opportunity to start and finish work at the times they choose.
Mobile technology has shifted work from a place to a space. Generation Y have a boundary-less view when it comes to when, where, and how work can be done. Yet it’s important to be mindful of the timing expectations or requirements of colleagues and/or customers.
Generation Y who gain clarity on the outcomes they are responsible for and achieve those outcomes on a routine basis will have the necessary credibility to earn greater flexibility. Prove that those outcomes won’t dip with increased flexibility by continuing to deliver efficient communication and satisfactory performance.

7. Lack of Experience Twenty-five percent of Generation Y have taken an unpaid job to gain experience. Generation Y are often overlooked due to lack of experience. But what value does experience hold in a culture of perpetual beta? The school of thought that experience is needed to produce high-quality work is permanently expelled in today’s digital age. In a world that moves fast, fresh perspectives and skills have new value. The new world of work will reward those experienced in being inexperienced.
Generation Y that want to squash the lack of experience shortcoming must demonstrate honest gratitude for the people and processes that preceded them while applying conviction and a strong work ethic behind their ideas. (Read this for tips on how Generation Y can successfully pitch their ideas.)

8. Act Entitled Sixty-one percent of American adults think of Generation Y as “entitled.”
There probably isn’t another word more synonymous to Generation Y than the word entitled. Whether or not you believe Generation Y are entitled, with 61 percent of American adults believing they are…perception is reality, and Generation Y should do what they can to combat the label.
Generation Y who demand or expect things too fast instead of being patient and respectful only expose their naiveness as young professionals. Give your effort, help, and support without expecting anything in return. Don’t demand anything, earn everything.
Looking for a proven and effective way to develop your Generation Y workforce? Check out 21Mill, the first ever micro-learning platform designed specifically to develop Generation Y. (Full disclosure, I am a proud partner of 21Mill.)

About the author

Ryan Jenkins

Ryan Jenkins is an internationally recognized speaker and trainer who helps organizations better lead, engage, and market to Generation Y and Generation Z. He shares his top-ranked generational insights on his Inc column and blog/podcast. Grab a free copy of Jenkins’s latest book, 6 Generation Y Motivators: A Guide to What Motivates Generation Y at Work.

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