Years ago, when I was working as a reporter covering the federal government a manager at cabinet agency told me they were having a rather astonishing problem with the latest generation of hires entering the federal workforce. Increasingly federal managers were having to deal with the parents of young employees. It seems that nosy parents Generation Y/millenials who found themselves struggling on the job thought nothing of calling up their bosses to try and iron out workplace problems. Again, we’re talking about college graduates here who either feel comfortable hiding behind their parents or won’t stop them from butting in on affairs that they should be handling as responsible adults.
A recent survey from an administrative staffing agency confirms that this is not just a problem for the federal government. The poll was based on questions to 1,300 senior managers at companies with 20 or more employees in the United States and Canada. Here’s what executives called the most unusual or surprising behavior they heard from a parent on behalf of their child who was seeking a job:
- One parent wanted to sit in during the interview.
- A parent called a politician to push me to hire his son.
- A mother submitted her daughter’s resume on her behalf.
- Someone stopped an employer at a grocery store to ask that person to hire her child.
- A parent called to ask about a job applicant’s work schedule and salary.
- A parent called during the interview to try to push me to hire her daughter.
- I received a call from a father asking about the status of his son’s application.
- A parent came by my desk and told me that he expected his daughter to get preference for a position since he was a manager at the company
- A mother called to ask how her child did in the job interview.
- A parent called to find out why we did not hire her son and why we felt he was not qualified.
Can you imagine if your parents did this? I would be mortified. To a large extent, I think this is the inevitable consequence of an overprotective culture that feels children need to be shielded from reality until they’re self-esteem is sufficiently built-up and the feel personally ready to go it on their own. I suspect that economic pressures have exacerbated the problem — it’s an exceptionally tough job market for those just entering it, and I feel for struggling young people and it no doubt triggers unhealthy parental anxiety. But again, that’s not the whole story — a new study by the National Endowment for Financial Education found almost six in ten parents are providing financial support to their adult children, aged 18 to 39 years of age.
At a certain age parental attempts to help children seem to do more harm then good, and I think this is a good thing to keep in mind even if your kids have yet to grow up. It’s better that you thrust adult responsibilities on younger children, rather than let them grow up to be adults who need to be coddled.