How To Work Effectively With Teenagers?

Question:

I work as a 49 year old restaurant hostess with teenage hostesses. My bosses have given me permission and support to tell the teenage hostesses what they need to do as they tend to stand around. They have been there longer than I have, don’t care too much for me and have nitpicked with me in their teenage ways. How can I establish a good rapport with them and help them to excel?

Signed,

Wanting to Help


Answer:

Dear Wanting to Help:

This response may not be exactly what you were seeking, but I want you to be able to enjoy your work and not take on more problems than you need! At the same time, I can feel some empathy for the other hostesses–and even for your managers. So, consider these thoughts as you develop a plan of action:

I think your managers were wrong to delegate authority to you, allowing you to essentially supervise co-hostesses and tell them what to do with their time. I also don’t think you should do it unless you are officially given the title of supervisor or lead hostess and the others understand that you have organizational support for your role.

It sounds as though it is unofficial, so I can see why there might be resentment. What if they hired someone older than you and with a bit more hostessing experience and allowed him or her to tell you what to do, even though you have more time in that restaurant? You would resent it a lot!

The reality is that these are teenaged girls who, unless they are very advanced for their ages and have been brought up with a strong work ethic, probably just are hanging on with the least amount of effort possible in their work. They don’t necessarily want to excel, unless it makes them feel good to do so.

I think you ought to tell your bosses that you like to help them and will support management in every way, but you realize that it only creates ill will if you put yourself in the role of a supervisor for coworkers–especially those who have been there longer than you. Say that you will leave it up to them to point out problems and you will do your part by setting the best example possible of how a hostess can work.

Or, don’t tell your managers anything and just make that your philosophy and approach.

The best way you can help the other hostesses is to influence them in a positive way. You can best gain influence through three actions:

1. Be credible. (Be knowledgeable and skillful and be the resource for information and assistance.)This also involves appearance and personality in a general sense. 2. Be valuable. What good feelings or results do they get from following your lead at work? What do you do for them that is something they value? This issue of offering something to others is very important. With teenage girls the best thing to offer is caring, support, a listening ear and lots of ego building, as well as helping them see how they can use this job to help with future jobs they really want.

As a side note: Let them know what you value about them as well, and look for more things to value. I don’t care to work around young people (I’ll admit it!)But when I do I try to use the time to ask them about their philosophies and ideas. I purposely try to elevate the conversation a bit, to get them to talk about ideas rather that about people and things. I have had good results with that and have found good perspectives for my own thinking.

3. Communicate effectively. That means listening as well as talking, and talking face to face with a personal interest rather than talking to the group.

I think you can do a lot to improve their work skills, but it is not your job to require them to improve and they know it. The best way you can help is to model the right behavior. Consider some of these ideas:

Ask one or all to help you with something, then be part of it. Smile at their work and their efforts and thank them for their help. Tell the manager about the good things you have observed and let the coworker know that you told the manager. Ask questions they can answer. Let them be an authority about something. But, whatever happens, try your best to not do their work for them, with a heavy sigh of exasperation. Provide good customer service, but give them a chance to do it on their own. And the managers should be taking care of what they are paid to manage.

I hope this will be helpful to you as you consider this situation. I understand fully your desire to have a leadership position. I just want you to have it as a natural reaction from friendly coworkers, not something you take-on inappropriately.

Best wishes!

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.