Have Helicopter Parents Interfered with Your Workplace?

Overbearing Helicopter ParentApril 26th is the 20th anniversary of Take Your Daughter and Sons to Work Day, a program most of us are well aware of as working parents.  But, did you know that Google holds Take Your Parent to Work Day?

Go ahead and laugh, but it’s true.  And if you are a helicopter parent, you would probably jump at the chance to go to work with your child.

Helicopter parents are people (primarily the parents of Gen Y or Millennials) who hover over their children with overprotective, over-involved fervor, trying to knock down any and every obstacle in their child’s path to success — even when those children become adults and move into the workforce.

Real-life examples of helicopter parents interfering at work:

Have you encountered helicopter parents in the workplace?  We certainly have.  We’ve seen many dismaying examples over the years.

For instance, we recently had to terminate a 24 year old woman for repeated and excessive absenteeism, after warning her multiple times about the consequences of consistently failing to come to work.

After her termination, her father dropped in to speak to her supervisor!  He was anxious to discuss the circumstances in her life that caused the attendance issues, and wanted to request she be given another chance.

On another occasion, I had an email exchange with an eager job seeker about an opening we had.  After several emails, I left the young man a voice mail message to set up an interview.  I was surprised when a very unenthusiastic youth called me back, bewildered by my call.  I reviewed our string of email communications with him, and he said, “Oh, that’s my mom.  She’s been sending out emails from my account, trying to get me a job.”

It probably won’t surprise you to hear that he didn’t show up for the interview.

We’ve had parents watch over shoulders and provide guidance while their offspring completed job applications.  We’ve had them wait in our lobby during the entire interview process.  We’ve had parents call to discuss compensation and benefits issues, disciplinary issues, and terminations.  We’ve even been threatened by angry parents.

The motivations & consequences of helicopter parenting:

If you’re a parent, of course you can understand the desire to see your children succeed, and the particular pressures young adults face now due to this economy.  Statistics today are daunting for our young people:

  • High school dropouts face an unemployment rate of 12.6%.
  • The unemployment rate for those without college diplomas is about 8%
  • A recent survey by Pew Research Center shows that 61% of adults between 25 to 34 know friends or family members that have moved in with their parents due to economic constraints

With social networking playing such a large role in recruiting today, it is even more important than ever to utilize your connections and circles of influence during a job hunt.  It’s easy, therefore, to see why parents get into the mix, utilizing their own business connections to assist their children with finding great job opportunities.

Unfortunately, being a helicopter parent can cast adult children in a poor light, negatively impact their employment, and leave them unprepared to handle the inevitable lows all adults face over the course of their working lives.

When a parent inappropriately attempts to intervene in a workplace on behalf of their adult child, it inadvertently raises questions about their child’s maturity and suitability for the grown-up responsibilities and demands of a job.  Helicopter parents of adult children stand to do far more harm than good by buzzing their kids’ employers.

How will your business handle helicopter parents?

Your business can choose how to deal with the helicopter parents you encounter.  Eye-rolling and laughing at the unexpected absurdity of having to deal with an adult employee’s mommy or daddy is certainly one approach.  However, some businesses try to address the problem of helicopter parenting with more direct tactics.

You can go the way of Google, and invite parents in for a day.  Or do as Ernst & Young did a few years ago, and create “parent packs” for the parents of your new hires so that they, too, understand the company’s benefits, policies, and culture.  The trick is to respect your employees’ and applicants’ rights to confidentiality, while maintaining a more modern twist on the family-friendly workplace.

Perhaps on April 26th we’ll change it up, and instead of bringing our kids to work, we’ll all just celebrate Bring Your Entire Family to Work Today.

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