Communication breakdown: How working teens' perceptions of their supervisors impact safety and injury

Academic Article


  • © 2016 - IOS Press and the authors. All rights reserved. BACKGROUND: Every nine minutes a young worker is injured on the job. Adult supervision is recommended to prevent injury among teen workers, yet limited research exists on supervision or the supervisor-teen relationship. OBJECTIVES: The objectives of this study were to: (a) explore teens' perceptions of supervision and supervisors, (b) characterize teen-supervisor communication, and (c) investigate the role of communication in injury and workplace safety. METHODS: In spring 2010, focus groups and interviews were conducted with working teenagers, 15-19 years old. RESULTS: Fifty-two percent of teens were injured at work and most did not report their injuries to their supervisors. The majority of teenagers perceived supervision as "being watched" to make sure you are "staying on task." Teens viewed their supervisors as uninterested and uncaring, which greatly impacted communication. As one 15-year old female who was severely burned stated: "they don't care." Self-blame after teens sustained an injury further complicated the teen-supervisor relationship and communication. CONCLUSIONS: Working teenagers have complicated relationships with their supervisors. Many liked their supervisors, but felt their supervisors were apathetic towards them. Supervisors who engage teens in a mentoring relationship may be successful in resolving uncomfortable power dynamics which may increase communication and; therefore, safety for working teens.
  • Published In

  • WORK  Journal
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Zierold KM; McGeeney TJ
  • Start Page

  • 3
  • End Page

  • 9
  • Volume

  • 54
  • Issue

  • 1