Do Helicopter Parents Make it Difficult for Generation Z to Soar at Work?


Did she earn this or did her parents?
Did she earn this or did her parents?

One of my clients asked me if I knew of anyone who could provide some Business Skills 101 type of training. They were having a difficult time with their new and young employees coming to work not really prepared for work. It is a phenomenon that is becoming more widespread. A just released study shows that this is due in part to “helicopter parenting”. The implication is that helicopter parents make it difficult for Generation Z to soar at work.
Generation Z
In case you are not familiar with Generation Z, it is the second wave of the millennials, born between 1990 and 2000. The first wave is Generation Y, born between 1982 and 1990, the oldest of which have already made it into the workforce and account for 11 million workers. In just two more years Gen Z will increase the total to 20 million and will surge to 30 million by the year 2019. And many of them are not ready for the workplace. Not because they don’t have the “smarts”, rather it is because they are not prepared to be told “no”, or to be rejected, or to lose because they have never been put in that situation. They play on sports teams that play to ties so that no one loses. They get graduation certificates every time they advance in a grade. Their parents do their homework or their projects and they show up and defend their child at every little slight that might be given. Sure it can be a scary world, but today we do not let children learn by facing risk. In my own neighborhood few kids ride the buses to school or home. Their parents drive them.
Parents even show up at work
Almost everyone in HR today has had to deal with an overprotective parent interfering with their child’s first job. I have seen them come in and sit there and watch their child be interviewed. Sara Sutton Fell, founder and CEO of FlexJobs, relates the story of one mother calling and yelling at Sara because her son had not gotten the job. She wanted to know why and even threatened to sue the company because of her son’s rejection. Sara had enough guts to call the young man and talk to him and tell him that his mother was not doing him any favors. Many of us would not bother to take the time. Irate parents don’t often listen to reason.
Lacking skills
Researcher Bruce Tulgan, of Rainmaker Thinking, has said this group has “simultaneously grew up way too fast and never grew up at all. Their access to information, ideas, images and sounds is completely without precedent. At the same time, they are isolated and scheduled to a degree that children have never been.” In my personal experience kids of this group are involved in non-stop activities, often not because they have the desire but because their parents want them to play soccer, baseball, football, be in the band, etc.
Tulgan also says these kids are providing a challenge for HR and management. He says “that while many members of this generation are incredibly tech-savvy—a sought-after trait by many employers—they are coming up short in other important areas.” These areas they are coming up short on are interpersonal skills, critical thinking skills, problem solving skills, and just some basic things like courtesy and the importance of showing up on time. These are the areas my client is having problems with in their new hires.
Tulgan suggests that HR has be prepared to deal with these deficiencies by engaging in what he calls “command-driven social media.” This is the process of the employer controlling who is in a group and what is discussed so that smaller bites of information can be used to train new employees.
Additionally, at a time when many people in HR are calling for getting rid of job descriptions, Tulgan suggests actually using job descriptions that are crystal clear and laser focused in detailing what their responsibilities will be at work.
I think there also needs to be accountability built into their jobs, not just for what is done, but also in the nature of how things are done. This is a way you can build in some of the interpersonal skills and relationship manners that are becoming so badly needed in today’s work place.
As Tulgan concludes the Boomers are retiring, the Gen X’s will be overwhelmed and there won’t be any adults left in the workplace.
Tell me your story
In the comment section leave me a story or two of helicopter parents you have had to deal with in HR.

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