A couple of months ago, I wrote about kids whose self-esteem has been artificially raised to such extreme levels that they cannot stand criticism or disappointment…and who are now entering the workplace. In many cases, it seems that the parents of such kids are confronting the kids’ employers when their offspring get fail to get expected promotions, receive performance appraisals that aren’t all roses, etc.
More on this theme in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal.
Sue Shellenbarger writes about parents who seek to get deeply involved in the hiring process. One father showed up with his daughter, who was being interviewed for a job with Enterprise Rent-A-Car. The mother of another recruit at Enterprise joined a phone call and began grilling the recruiter about the benefits package. At other companies, parents are calling hiring managers to protest the offered pay packages and try to renegotiate. At GE, an offer was made to a recruit last fall, and the recruit’s mother called the next day trying to negotiate an increase in pay. “It’s unbelievable to me that a parent of a 22-year-old is calling on their behalf,” say Allison Keaton, director of college relations for St Paul Travelers. She calls this generation “the kamizake parents–the ones that already mowed down the guidance and admissions offices and are now moving into the workplace.”
And at Boeing, one candidate brought his mother right into the interview.
I wonder about these parents…what do most of them do for a living? If they have ever managed people, surely they must realize that interference like that described above would not be appreciated by their kids’ prospective bosses. Even if they have never managed people, one would think that ordinary common sense and empathy would lead them to the same conclusion.
Imagine recruiting someone for a position in which he is eventually going to be negotiating with customers and/or suppliers. Now imagine that he brings his mother or father in to help him negotiate his own pay package. Is this going to increase your confidence in his ability to represent your company properly? Hardly.
It’s natural for parents to want to help their kids in their careers, and there are plenty of entirely legitimate ways to do that…give advice. Help with introductions. Provide perspective and realism when things go wrong.
But the levels of involvement described in the WSJ article go way beyond such traditional forms of support, and can only serve to undercut the development of confidence and independence. A 5% higher starting salary isn’t worth it if the price is the failure to develop one’s own negotiating powers. The same parents who focused on credentials rather than knowledge and metaskills in the education process are also failing to comprehend the importance of metaskill development in the workplace.
Shellenbarger uses the common phrase “helicopter parents” (referring to the hovering) for the headline of her story. But helicopters must periodically leave their hovering position and go somewhere to refuel. The parents described in this article are more like permanently-installed cranes than they are like helicopters.
Americans have always liked to think of themselves as independent and self-reliant. Given the behavior described in these articles, is that view out of date?
(See also: Micromanaging the Kids)