Communicating with Teens


“Helllloooo!! Is there anybody in there?”

It’s been a long night and you’re starting to feel like a parent. You’ve told the teen what to do and when to do it more times that you can count, but still Table 5 hasn’t been bussed and the dirty trays aren’t anywhere near the dishwasher.

But you’re not the parent, thank goodness, you’re the employer and, hopefully, your teen worker wants to please you. But they just don’t seem to get it and, frankly, you’re tired of talking about it.

Like it or not, teen workers are a large part of our employee base. Training and managing them effectively lies not just in what we say, but how we say it.

Here are some tips for improving communication with teens:

  • Use concrete language. You may think you’re doing it, but listen to yourself. You said to clear the table; you didn’t mention wiping it down and checking the seats. Be specific, especially during training.
  • Ask open-ended questions. Most teens will say as little as possible to you. If you really want their feedback — or to make sure they understand how the slicer works — ask “How do you remove the blade?” instead of “Do you understand how to remove the blade?”
  • Listen more than you talk. You’ll find out what a teen needs (training, mentoring, fewer hours, etc.) by asking the right questions and really listening to the responses.
  • Be patient. If your teen worker is enthusiastic, positive and a hard-worker, see the big picture. A little experience — and a lot of patience — will make her a star performer in just a matter of months.

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