3 Simple Tips to Dealing with Difficult Adolescent Employees

So what is an Adolescent?

On the surface they appear to be difficult, pigheaded, eye rolling, under-breathed back talking, trash tweeting employees.  Many times they may refuse to complete a task to its fullest potential, or they may even just skip out on it altogether.  Perhaps punctuality is not above taking the time to pose for the perfect Snapchat, or Instagram photo on their list of priorities. They must tell all their friends just how miserable they feel about heading to work or write public blogs bashing the intelligence of their customers.  We have all been adolescents but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating.  Remember, we didn’t even understand ourselves back then.

Adolescents lasts in most young adults until they are 24.  

Before you can manage them you have to take the time to understand them.  Adolescence is a time when an individual is seeking out their identity, at times their personal life is all they can see.  Their perceptions are egocentric, everyone is looking at them, wanting to listen to them, and their thoughts are brilliant gifts oozing in enlightenment. And though some seem tough on the surface, internally they are a ball of sensitivity.  They feel big, and to them, life is so incredibly big (many times to a terrifying degree).  Because of this, adolescents have an inner need for structure and though they may not understand the questions they are seeking out answers.

They are not invested in your job. This is not because they are difficult to please, but because a job that is not indulging their egos is not satisfying their need for inner growth in this major time of transition.

How You May Be Handling your Adolescent Staff


  • Many times your gut reaction is to bang your head against the wall.  This is fine, please do so with caution, and out of sight (they can smell weakness).  Most days you want to scream at them, or strangle them.  This is not fine, please never do this.
  • Writing the staff members up doesn’t seem to do anything, in fact you’ve used that play so much that the discipline report has lost its effect.
  • You find yourself being the micro-manager or “hover” manager you yourself hate.  And this has just seemed to demotivate them further as now they spend their time expressing their annoyance of you.
  • You are writing them off as a lost cause after giving up the long battle and just hoping they go away.

Effective Brainstorming Points To Help You With Your Adolescent Staff


  1. Adolescents respond to respect.  They have “experience” and great “wisdom” far superior to yours, and you just need to accept that.  Open store decisions up to your staff, give them a taste of choice.  At meetings ask them for input on how they want certain policies handled.  When a staff member is included in the decisions that directly affect them they will feel a part of the store and its policies.  Also listening to the reasoning behind major policy changes that may be unpopular will ease the tension when the final decision must be made.  This inclusion and potency motivates them to care about the store and its policies.
    • Example:  “Team, our check-in/Check-out errors are out of control this quarter.  How do we want to handle this, I’m open to suggestion.  I was thinking for everyone that has no clock in clock out errors for the week they get entered in a raffle for a Starbucks gift card, or perhaps I could charge you a dollar for each adjustment.  What are your ideas?”
  2. Adolescents need to feel empowered. Give your employees important responsibilities.  Don’t be a hero, don’t hoard all the work due to your lack of trust in your employees.  Give your employees individual responsibilities.  When you assign a task let them know it is important or vital and how it will better the store.  Be sure to always follow up, let them know how great they did or where they could use improvement.  These are the fundamentals of management.
    • Example: To give employees a sense of power, give them literal power.  Assign each employee a unique mini-department.  Place them in charge in the upkeep, stock, and/or merchandising of this department.  Meet with the employees weekly to discuss the progress of their department.  To see more ways to utilize this strategy click here.
  3. Adolescents need an advocate.  They are so hard on themselves, and so insecure through all of life’s changes that they need personal affirmation that what they are doing is good.  One on One meetings will not only help employees with communication of professional issues or struggles, but it will also offer you the opportunity to let them know what they are doing right.
    • Take the time at least once a month to sit with your staff members individually.  Use this time to go over their stats, and show them what their stats say about them.  Show them their growth they have shown as an employee and your personal expectations for them further.  Record their own personal thoughts or goals for your personal records and come up with a collaborative game plan for achievement.  For more communication tips click here.

Adolescent Employees


  • Are you a manager with difficult employees?  What is or is not working for you?
  • Are you an adolescent who does not have an enriching work environment?  What can you do to find motivation and growth?
  • Any parents out there with advice?

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