I have been somewhat bemused by the spate of articles over the last weeks advising managers and recruiters how to treat helicopter parents in the workplace. I do have to confess however, to quashing a particularly strong maternal urge last year to hop on the Eurostar to give my son’s boss a piece of my mind. At best he was a truly lousy manager, at worst a bully. You will be pleased to hear common sense prevailed.
Interfering or intervening?
Yesterday, I was quite taken aback by a call from a well spoken woman who introduced herself as Nina. After some solicitous enquiries about disturbing me (she wasn’t), my health (I was fine) expanding, she announced she was the mother of Christian, a candidate I seemingly had the temerity to cut from an interview process at the end of last week. Apparently, according to Mme. Nina, I had overlooked many of petit Christian’s superlative qualities. She politely wondered if I had the depth of insight, or indeed the very qualifications required to make such a judgement call. I was kindly therefore prevailed upon, in the nicest possible way, to reinstate him “tout de suite” .
It took me a good 30 seconds to process the implications of this dialogue. I should tell you that Christian is 26 years old, probably stands at 1m 85 in his socks and had grossly exaggerated his accomplishments, to the point where fact and fiction are completely blurred in his petit head. He and the CV writer, possibly Mama Nina, had wasted a number of people’s time, including mine.
I have also observed a recent trend of moving away from being exasperated with this reluctance to cut the umbilical cord, to one of understanding and even in some cases to accommodating this new parenting style. Carl Gilleard, chief executive of the Association of Graduate Recruiters said as far back as 2008 “HR teams should turn this trend to their advantage by striking up a relationship with the families of new recruits and accepting that winning the backing of parents can considerably smooth the path,”
He continued “While I wouldn’t expect to see quite so much involvement by parents once the young person gets to his second or third job, it’s best not to be too rigid about these things. It is quite acceptable for people in their mid-20s to still want loads of backing from home.”
There are valid cases for parental intervention at this age but I am firmly in the exasperated camp
Men and women
There are indeed very valid cases where young adults need more parental support than would be expected at their age: learning difficulties, health issues or disabilities come to mind. But for fully functioning, above average IQ men and women (because this is what they are) I realise that I am clearly out of step with the zeitgeist. I still remain firmly in the “exasperated” camp and see this accommodation of a co-dependent trend, not just as a worrying infantilisation of the work place, but also damaging to the candidates themselves. So I urge:
- Don’t write your child’s CV for him/her. They will not own their own message and fall at the first hurdle
- Don’t send your child’s resume to prospective employers on his or her behalf. They should do that themselves.
- Don’t call employees advocating for your offspring whether for the position itself or compensation package. It will generally lead straight to the reject heap. You are depriving them of learning valuable skills.
- Don’t accompany junior to an interview, job fair or any other meeting in the process. This will in many cases be the kiss of death for him/her.
In the words of Pink Floyd “leave them kids alone”
- Do take responsibility for your own career strategy. Be clear about your boundaries with Mum and Dad.
- If you need mentoring or help and your parents are too invasive, look for a neutral professional. If you struggle financially, maybe your parents can step in – but as a loan. Make a formal loan agreement and make sure you pay it back.
- Do not be afraid to fail or change your mind. Make your own decisions and accept (and pay for) the consequences.
- If you feel afraid to make a decision without the deep involvement of Mum and Dad – perhaps there is a need talk to someone outside your family. Can friends or even a professional support you?
The parents of most Millennials are generally out of touch with the job search skills required in today’s market place and in many cases are mis-advising their kids in a number of areas. Intervening (interfering?) is not doing their children any service, but depriving them of vital life lessons which contribute to their maturity and workplace value. They are: independence, sense of achievement, self-reliance, the ability to work autonomously, the ability to self advocate, the ability to plan for themselves and to think strategically, a willingness to learn from failure and the capacity to successfully move on.
Like babies who need to crawl before they can walk, these early career knocks are key developmental experiences. Culturally we are in danger of creating a generation which will struggle to be self-reliant.
What do you think?