As it has been pointed out countless times in the media and through anecdotes, millennials in the workplace feel entitled to undeserved promotions and raises, are addicted to their smartphones and job hop every few years. The litany of complaints goes on, but of course no generation is as bad -- or as good -- as reported: Generation X was more than just a bunch of slackers and Baby Boomers' strengths shook off their juvenile delinquent label.
In the case of Generation Y, twenty-somethings bring new perspectives and habits to the workplace that add value to their employers, even though those strengths also carry inherent weaknesses.
Whether you're managing millennials or are a twenty-something yourself, here are the unique and creative talents Gen Y brings to the table, the lessons they still need to learn and the opportunities they have to establish themselves as the next generation of leaders.
The double-edged sword of natural collaboration. Immune to hierarchy or labels and raised in an era of social media and crowdsourcing, Generation Y is fiercely inclusive. Studies show that millennial managers are more likely to build culturally competent teams that ignore race, gender, sexual orientation, age, and physical abilities, among other characteristics. This diversity of perspectives can drive stronger decision-making and should be encouraged.
But millennials' need for interaction can also manifest in a need for constant performance assessments, with 80 percent of this demographic wanting regular feedback from their managers. And for a generation used to receiving trophies win or lose, any negative criticism can be hard to take.
Millennials should take a page from the Baby Boomers and focus on getting the job done, regardless of whether there's praise for the work they did. In addition, twenty-something's need to rethink negative criticism. It can be hard to take, but it's offered with good intentions: to improve your work and the company's success.
The good and bad of being self-sufficient. While millennials are often knocked for boomeranging back home after college, they're actually highly self-sufficient. For example, when diagnosing IT problems at work, 61 percent of millennials said they don't immediately call company support. Instead, 71 percent have turned to Google for a solution at least once. And while some IT departments balk at the potential risk of this approach, it's often faster and more efficient.
But along with self-sufficiency comes a dangerous rigidity. Millennials can't Google their path to success. They need to look beyond established methods and understand that their value to employers is to continuously seek out new strategies, devise better processes and improve quality. They're being given the opportunity to thrive and differentiate, but they need to see it and capitalize on it.
The love-hate relationship with social media. Having grown up with Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms, millennials have no qualms about sharing their lives as they happen. In doing so, they can build their own reputations as well as that of their employer. Plus, they may be more willing to invest in creative solutions in anything the tackle -- even in quitting their jobs (Remember the Marina Shifrin quitting video seen by more than 17 million people?) The best managers are able to tap that creativity and millennials' ability to command an audience.
That said, incessant sharing of irrelevant or useless information is all the evidence most observers need to peg millennials as narcissists. To avoid this stereotype, Gen Y should err on the side of sharing useful, relevant information. Before sharing, ask yourself one key question: Does this post help someone? If yes, publish. If no, don't.
The balancing act of purpose. Millenials don't just want a job: They want to make a difference. An MTV study showed that 83 percent of millennials want to work for a company that values their creativity. More than 90 percent are motivated to work harder if they know where their work is going and 92 percent expect feedback In this environment, managers have no excuse for withholding an explanation for even minor tasks.
It's absolutely fair to want to know how the task matters, but millennials shouldn't wait around until the higher purpose is revealed. Sometimes a task is just a task. Certainly, millennials should let their managers know if they'd like their work's purpose better communicated, but in the meantime, they should complete the tasks at hand and do them well.
If you're a millennial, play to your strengths but recognize you still have a few things to learn about the workplace. Your success ultimately depends on your ability to rise above your perceived weaknesses. If you manage millennials, take a step back and recognize the value they can offer through new perspectives and approaches to their work.
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