When Helicopter Parents Crash the Workplace

The New York Times recently ran an article about horrible helicopter parents who hover all the way through college and then into the workforce–citing an example of a father who applied on behalf of his son and even showed up with the interview, and moms who joined in for a Skype Interviews.

Here’s the thing: most parents are not this awful. They truly are not. But, enough are. And why are they? Because they’ve been helicoptering for years and years and have had great success with it. In fact, the schools reward students whose parents hover and punish those who don’t.

This is not a new phenomenon. When my brilliant and talented younger sister didn’t get a starring role in her high school play, she accepted it. That is until the drama teacher pulled her aside and asked her to act as a coach to the girl who did get the lead. When she asked why she didn’t get the part if she was a better actor and singer than the girl who did, the teacher responded honestly, “Her mother will make my life a living hell if she doesn’t have a starring role. Your mom is nice.”

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7 thoughts on “When Helicopter Parents Crash the Workplace

  1. Children who never get the chance to grow up are a problem. Parents who never grew up are a much bigger problem.

  2. This is such a weird thing to me. Because at this same moment in history, we also hear horrible stories about parents turning a blind eye to their teen/young adult children’s underage drinking, to their engaging in sexual activity far too soon, and ignore what they get into on social medial.

    So you turn a blind eye to the drinking and the sex….yet hold their hand in a job interview??? That makes no sense. It’s like too many parents have lost their ability to calibrate when they should step in and when they should back away.

    1. By and large, I suspect they’re not the same parents.

      And when they are, it is entirely consistent with believing your children are literally perfect, and incapable of doing any wrong, ever, in any way.

      It’s a sort of narcissism by proxy.

    2. Not sure why this surprises you. Both stem from the same source: “MY child cannot possibly be less than perfect. If anything goes wrong in their life, it’s SOMEONE ELSE’S fault!” Or, in some cases, “I can’t let anything hurt my child’s self-esteem; that’s the most important thing.”

      This leads to ignoring data about their child’s less-than-perfect behavior, and to the parent pushing back against anything that may frustrate the desire of their children.

  3. As parents, we all want the best for our children, but there comes a time, when we need to let them learn how to stand on their own, even if that means they may fail. Think of that old saying—You can take a horse to water, but it is up to the horse to drink the water.

  4. Yes, helicopter parents are damaging their children in just about every way, including employment. However, there is one narrow exception I would make. Intellectually-challenged individuals are now being main-streamed in our society, which I think is a very good thing. However, notwithstanding the fact that many of them make very good employees, unusual, highly-stressful, events like job interviews can easily overwhelm them. Sometimes, it helps for their parent to participate — especially if the individual requires special accommodation — as an advocate or information resource.

    1. I think the idea of rejecting a candidate because they brought someone to wait in the lobby goes too far. I’m entirely against someone being involved in the interview–I’m hiring (or not) the individual, not their parents/spouse/whoever. That said, transportation may be an issue. If someone needs a friend, sibling, even parent to drive them to the interview I can’t blame them for that–I’ve had enough car trouble to sympathize. I would STRONGLY encourage the person to do something else during the interview, and would find them waiting in the lobby weird enough to worry about the candidate, but it wouldn’t be an immediate cause for rejection.

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