Indra Nooyi

Is there a place for parents in the workplace?

Indra Nooyi is one of the world’s most successful CEOs heading up PepsiCo and comes in at number 10 on the Forbes Power Women list. She has recently astounded me (and some others) by sharing her involvement with the parents of some of her employees, admitting to writing  to them about the success of their children. At the same time she has also indicated  that when she was trying to make an offer to a hard-to-attract candidate, she called the individual’s mother to persuade her to secure his/her buy-in. Apparently she succeeded. I’m not sure how I feel about the place of parents in the workplace.

Now, I am a parent, and I would be less than honest if I told you that I didn’t feel that special glow of pride when I get positive feedback on my kids even as adults. I do. It’s like going to a parent-teacher conference. Good reports are always welcome. Indra Nooyi is a very successful business woman and at a time when employee engagement in corporate life is reported to be at an all time low, I feel I should listen to her sage advice.

Yet there is something that holds me back

I can’t help but feel that the parent offspring relationship is not for the workplace, unless it is done at the behest of said offspring. No CEO, no matter how empathetic can ever understand a parent child relationship. It also begs a couple of other questions. At what age or level do you stop or start? What do you do with under performers or employees who don’t make the “writing -to- parents” cut? It’s a bit like not being asked to the class party. Should the whole class be invited? What about the employees who lost their parents or are estranged from them?

Surely the best way to let employee parents know how well their child is valued, is to tell the employee him or herself and allow them to share that news if they feel they want to.  Any employee would be more than delighted to tell their mother ” Hey Mum guess who wrote to me today to tell me how great I am?”

When does persuasion become subtle coercion?

As for calling the mother of a candidate as part of the  executive search attraction process, I am not sure if that is almost intrusive. When does persuasion become coercion?  Once again the subtleties and dynamics of any family relationship can never be fully known or understood by an outsider. Some, even quite senior executives, as any psychologist will tell you, carry deep-seated psychological wounds from negative childhood experiences and relationships, from which they have never fully recovered. I have known a number of successful, grounded  executives  be reduced to passive, gibbering wrecks in the presence of an authoritarian father or critical mother.

Just as the helicopter parent  should best stay at home, so  perhaps it’s best to let Junior, at whatever level decide for him or herself,if Mum and Dad are brought into the loop.

What do you think?

2 thoughts on “Is there a place for parents in the workplace?

  1. D. A. Wolf

    Wow. This makes me uneasy. Even more so, somehow, given recent events in the US wherein we have the parent occupying the nation’s highest office tweeting about his son’s behavior as if that son were 19 not 39.

    Of course, then there is the nepotism factor, another disturbing parent-child issue.

    Apples to oranges? Maybe. Nevertheless, shouldn’t adults be evaluated in their own right? Shouldn’t adults NOT be coerced into positions they are themselves to fill satisfactorily? Especially by a parent?

    Intriguing topic.


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