Customers, parents respond to article on young employees

My recent article on teen workers generated a healthy response. Here is a sample:

"I, too, have experienced unbelievably poor service from young employees who are so busy discussing their social life with their co-workers that they seem "put out" when a customer approaches. I would like to point out that not all teenagers are guilty of providing bad service; some are friendly and very efficient, but they are few are far between. Oftentimes, the "supervisor" is also a teen, way too inexperienced to offer appropriate direction to their staff. These employees do not seem to consider that servicing customers is what they are being paid to do and that without the customer they would have no job.

Perhaps if more of us complained to management the message would get through. Companies spend millions on advertising, marketing and public relations campaigns, but it is all for nothing if the front line service is not there. The job market crunch should not provide an excuse to keep poor employees on staff. These young employees need to be properly trained from day one, with appropriate supervision and feedback."

"May I comment that successful employee-employer relationship is a two-way street? Our two high-schoolers and their friends have held a variety of part-time jobs, and many of them were not good experiences.

It seems that a prevailing attitude among employers is, "You’re going to quit anyway, so I’m not going to invest much time in you." The young workers are treated as second-class citizens in terms of having their schedule requests honored (even when it’s because of final exams or family vacation), how they are trained (usually by someone with two weeks seniority on them), and how they are included into the rest of the staff.

One of our sons happened to be among the dozen part-time serving staff hired by a health facility I worked at. Our director routinely referred to them as "the kids" (in a negative way), and when I indicated I would be giving each one a copy of a new employee newsletter I had developed, I was told, "Don’t waste the money printing them—the kids won’t read them." (I did it anyway.) Only when pressed by the rest of the staff, did our director allow them to attend the employee holiday party, and they were not included in staff photos that were taken. We also did not welcome them on the "Welcome New Staff" bulletin board, although they had more contact with the facility residents than any other employees.

Would you please use your forum to remind employers that they are providing a first experience with the world of work, and for everyone’s benefit, it should be a positive one? The old saying, "You get what you give" should be the guiding principle here: give our young people the respect, training, recognition and feelings of success that they need and want, and you will have done your part to create a lifelong good worker."

Your article on teen workers was right on the mark. Today’s young workers need an attitude adjustment. I will personally make all my new hires read this article. I will also have my children read it as soon as they are ready to enter the work force. Somehow we need to get our schools to teach these basic rules!"

"…You wrote: "Employers think you already know these rules, so they usually don’t spell them out for you." Where would an employer get the idea that a teenager who’s never held a job before would have any idea of what employers expect?

Teenagers weren’t born knowing how to do this stuff and they don’t teach it in school. If you don’t train them, nobody will. As a customer, it’s painfully obvious when I’m dealing with someone who hasn’t had any real training.

It would help if employers would give them some idea of where their paycheck comes from…where the income and expenses are. (Jack Stack’s "Great Game of Business" would help a lot.) If they are made managers, they’ll need some training in management. It would help if the people doing the training have had some training themselves. It would help a lot if some of their co-workers were adults (other than the manager). It would help if managers acknowledged that customers can be unreasonable at times and that nobody can deal with that day after day without some support.

I wonder if the bit about conservative dress codes is being over-emphasized to make up for the lack of training. Personally, I’d rather deal with a guy who has a nose ring and knows what he’s doing, over a clean-cut teenager who didn’t get any training (the later is far too common, and the former is actually a relief."

"…There are workers there (downtown Safeway store in San Francisco) whose job it is to wander the aisles and ask you if you need help finding anything, even if you don’t have a bewildered look on your face. If you do need assistance, they will walk you right to the item, rather than vaguely point to and mutter an aisle number as I’ve experienced elsewhere. Once at the checkout line, you are greeted and asked, "How are you?" At the conclusion of the sale, you are thanked, and asked if you need help with your purchases out to the car! This has happened every time I’ve shopped there for the last five years.

Why is the experience here so consistently different? I think it’s the lack of long range visioning by the managers. Yes, it might be more expedient to pay workers a low wage, and take what you can get, but at what cost? Do I want to shop at stores where I’m treated rudely? No. And I’ll keep looking for a store where I can leave without grumbling to myself what at awful experience it was."

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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