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New Careerstone Survey: Young Employees Lack the Skills to Work with a Difficult Boss

Filling the soft-skills gap: young employees rate employee/boss relations as the most challenging soft-skill in the workplace

Younger employees face challenges working with their managers and supervisors.


Careerstone Group’s most recent survey revealed young employees, those aged 18 to 24, feel the least confident in their ability to work with bosses and managers, out of numerous other workplace soft skills. Over 100 early career participants were posed with the question, “What soft skill do you feel least confident about in the workplace? In other words, if you could get advice in one of these areas, other than technical skills, which would you choose?”


Survey respondents were given a variety of soft skills to choose from and the largest percentage of respondents named “how to work with my boss or a deal with a difficult boss” as the skill in which they were the least confident. Survey participants also rated “how to navigate office politics and culture” as their second-highest desired developmental area.


The Manager-Employee Relationship Matters

This finding is significant for organizations who need to recruit, develop, train, and retain young talent. The manager-employee relationship is a powerful dynamic for workplace productivity and positivity. When employees and managers have aligned goals and productive, cooperative relationships, the organization sees myriad benefits, including increased retention, higher productivity, and increased overall employee engagement and morale. Young employees who lack the soft skills needed to work with those above them in their organizations may not be able to reach their full potential in the organization. Failing to develop these skills in young employees can have long-term negative consequences for both employees, managers, and organizations.


Teach the Skills That Matter

Organizations are wise to invest in helping their young talent gain the skills and confidence needed to succeed. It’s important to help emerging talent learn to work effectively with their managers; bosses are not necessarily going to change their managerial style to accommodate young workers. We recommend providing early career development training programs, with an emphasis on teaching young employees to “manage up.” These programs can be taught within educational institutions before entering the workforce, or as part of employee development initiatives. Employees can learn practical and proven strategies to work well with any type of manager, creating a more productive and engaged workforce for all.



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