Bosses and Supervisors

Your Teenage Employees

The work setting can be a tremendous setting for teenagers to develop a wide range of capabilities and insights.  Bosses in various forms can provide a great deal of support and guidance.

Teenagers are unlike your other employees:

  • For most teenagers, working in a job is going to be new to them
  • They are inexperienced in life and don’t have a lot to fall back on
  • They can be surprisingly (and often invisibly) vulnerable

They also usually bring:

  • Curiosity
  • Energy
  • A desire to do well and contribute
  • A drive to learn

The Challenges and Types of Test They Face

They all face three core challenges

These three challenges play out in every part of their lives – including in their job roles.  Your teenage employees are challenged to:

  1. Form a new identity as a young adult
  2. Develop a range of more mature relationships
  3. Build competencies in twelve categories

And they have to “Do their jobs.”

There are three different ways in which they are tested

  1. They have to let go of the ways of childhood
  2. The have to discover and master the ways of young adulthood
  3. They have to deal with the “inbetweenity” of being between childhood and young adulthood

In the work setting the development of young adult capabilities can make it easier to let go and shorten or lessen the sense of “inbetweenity.”

There are five levels on which they have to deal with these challenges and tests

  1. Physical level
  2. Intellectual level
  3. Emotional level
  4. Social level
  5. Spiritual level

The first four are obvious in most work settings.  Growth on many of the levels is happening most of the time, so it’s a matter of managing your teen employees with intention (there is no recipe) – “How can I help them develop?”

Your Potential Role(s)

You have a natural “obligation” to get the performance required for success for your organization or company.  You also have the “opportunity” to play an important role in the lives of the teenagers that work for you. 

That means (a) being aware of the journey they are on and their range of experiences and (b) determining the role you want to play and playing it with intention.

Your role as boss could include being a teacher/trainer, coach, disciplinarian, more experienced person who has “gone before” on journeys and has experience to share, etc.

Just be conscious of the role you want to play.  It’s really your choice and may vary by setting and by teenager.

There are lots of things you can bring to a role – skill building, discipline, feedback, direction, insight, information, consequences, etc.  Emotionally you can bring safety, a sense of their significance or worth, motivation, connection, a role model, etc.


Guiding Questions to Adapt

These questions are designed to help you determine how you want to play your role as boss with your teenage employees.  They are certainly not prescriptive or “shoulds.”  Every work setting is different as it every teenager.  Helping teenagers develop in a work setting is really an art form. 

“How can I help them build?”

  • Skills
  • Attitudes
  • Competencies
  • Relationships
  • Self-awareness
  • Confidence
  • A sense that they are significant – and their behaviors matter


“How can I help them develop as they do their work for me?”

  • Discipline, habit, learning, perseverance, mastery
  • The ability to recover from mistakes – persistence and resilience
  • Openness to learning/experience
  • The ability to self-manage
  • The ability to form and maintain healthy collaborative relationships


“What does this person need from me at this time?”

  • To be a good employee and perform?
  • To learn and develop as a better and better employee?
  • To feel valued?
  • To feel confident?
  • To be physically safe?


“What Can I Help Them Contribute?”

  • Positive energy
  • Production
  • Collaboration
  • Role modeling

“Few of us will do the spectacular deeds of heroism that spread themselves across the pages of our newspapers in big black headlines. But we can all be heroic in the little things of everyday life. We can do the helpful things, say the kind words, meet our difficulties with courage and high hearts, stand up for the right when the cost is high, keep our word even though it means sacrifice, be a giver instead of a destroyer. Often this quiet, humble heroism is the greatest heroism of all”

Wilferd A.

The Cardinal Rule – “No Diminishing”

You can be tough and demanding, but do not diminish a teenage employee.  They are young, inexperienced and can be surprisingly vulnerable.  They can also sometimes be maddening and it can be easy to let diminishing comments slip out. 

Be Alert

Pay attention to situations where a teenager is particularly stressed or vulnerable and more support than you can provide is needed.  Act to get that support.

If suicide is an issue, there are two articles in the Specials section one for those who have a suicidal friend and one for those feeling suicidal themselves.

How the Site Can Help

The site is very large, so just go to whatever sections seem to be of most interest. 

  • There are sections on each of the three core challenges (identity, relationships and competencies)
  • There is a big section on what to expect on the journey (the rollercoaster experience, letting go, mastery and “inbetweenity”, developing support networks, etc.)
  • There is a section on how to manage the journey
  • There are special sections on topics like suicide, how to thrive, etc.)
  • There is a big section on quotes and one on resources

You can use the site to educate yourself, point out certain parts to your teen employees, etc.  There is no “cookie cutter” approach to managing teen employees, so just be curious and adapt whatever is of interest to you.