Would you like verbal abuse with that? Teaching your teen to handle a difficult boss

A few weeks ago a question was asked on our Facebook page as to how to deal with your teen’s verbally abusive boss. This was a great question that I felt warranted an entire post to cover. The result of which is below. Thanks!

verbalabuseYou left the footnote off the month-end accounting report again, and your boss is managing everything except her temper. As an adult, you may be able to shrug it off, but what about when your teen burns the French fries on her Friday night shift, and her boss flips his lid? Unfortunately, some bosses don’t take their teenage employees as seriously as they should, and can turn constructive criticism into verbal abuse at the drop of a salt shaker. And when your teen is at the receiving end of a long string of swear words, it might be time for a career change.

Although our teens will be out on their own very soon, it’s still our job to offer plenty of support as they enter the working world. Teaching positive job skills and professionalism now will really help them down the road as they advance from car washer to computer engineer. And one of the first lessons should be how to deal with a tough boss—and when to say enough is enough.

Help your working teen maneuver all kinds of sticky situations on the job by following these steps:

  • Start early by discussing what is acceptable behavior from a boss or supervisor and what is not—and also what your teen needs to do to hold up her end of the bargain. Teens should understand what it means to work hard, follow the rules, be respectful and be a team player, while setting appropriate limits. So, yes, a sales associate might have to scrub a toilet at work every so often, but she shouldn’t be asked to drop off her boss’s dry cleaning on her way home from work. And remind your teen that at some time or another, we all make a mistake at work so she should be prepared to accept constructive criticism and take responsibility; however, there is a clear line between a supervisor giving guidance on how to better help a customer and a boss flying off the handle because your teen packed groceries in one too many plastic bags.
  • Role-play different scenarios, including specific language your child can use to handle conflict.  Take turns playing “boss” and “employee” and focus on situations that might arise in your teen’s specific job.  For example, if the boss in question is using inappropriate language, help your child practice calmly saying something like “I can understand that we need to discuss the situation at hand, but it is not acceptable for you to talk to me that way.”
  • Make it clear that not every job is going to work out.  We all want our children to work hard and persevere, but not every employment opportunity is a match made in heaven. Being asked to do anything illegal or that makes them ethically uncomfortable is certainly grounds for walking away from a job. And if your child’s boss is constantly changing his shifts last-minute, even after he’s talked to her about it, let him know it’s okay to move on.
  • Be visible as parents.  While it’s important for your child to stand up for herself, when the issue is serious, Mom and Dad need to be involved.  Discuss with your child when she plans to talk to her boss and be there for support, whether it’s waiting in the car or in the business lobby, or standing right beside her.

We can’t protect our kids from everything, especially once our teenagers start making their way in the “real world.”  However, we can give them the knowledge and courage they need to tackle any personnel issue, and set them up for a successful career in any job!

About the Author

Amy McCready
Nationally recognized parenting expert Amy McCready is the Founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and the best selling author of The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic - A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World and If I Have to Tell You One More Time…The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids to Listen Without Nagging, Reminding or Yelling. As a “recovering yeller” and a Certified Positive Discipline Instructor, Amy is a champion of positive parenting techniques for happier families and well-behaved kids. Amy is a TODAY Show contributor and has been featured on CBS This Morning, CNN, Fox & Friends, MSNBC, Rachael Ray, Steve Harvey & others. In her most important role, she is the proud mom of two amazing young men.