An HR Director's Lament

Millennials have become just as famous for their helicopter parents as they they are in their own right. According to this HR professional, they combine to create the "Perfect Labor Storm":

These kids, our newest wave of employees, are confident, achievement-oriented and used to hovering "helicopter" parents keeping tabs on their every move. Helicopters parents are now crossing the line from being involved with their children's employment to actually running the show for them. Remember the big-mouth parent at Little League? That was nothing. Parents of Millenials are continuing the intense oversight this generation has been known for all along: challenging poor grades, negotiating with coaches and helping kids register for college. Overinvolved parents meddle in college registration and interfering with students' dealings with professors, administrators and roommates. Students who get frustrated or confused during registration have been known to interrupt their advisers to whip out a cellphone, speed-dial their parents and hand the phone to the adviser, saying, "Here, talk to my mom." Now helicopter parents are going to work. Managers are getting phone calls from parents asking them to hire their 20-something kids. Candidates are stalling on job offers to consult with their parents. Parents are calling hiring managers to negotiate pay packages. There you have it: an aging workforce, mobile and independent Gen-Xers, stretched and stressed Sandwiched boomers, and doted kids of soccer moms....The Perfect Labor Storm is not passing quickly and its path is increasingly complex and unpredictable.

I've spent a lot of time interacting with helicopter parents -- often parents of adults who have already graduated from college. When I was a law school admissions officer, I remember more than one parent yelling and pleading and groveling on the phone with me to give their kid a spot in the class even though he had ignored the deadline to reserve a seat.

In my current role, the parents are often the ones trying to hire me to help their kids. Many are wonderful partners and allies for their children in the process, but some skirt the line, and others blow right past it. (The first time I slid a retainer check back across the table because the parents had obviously written the admissions essay -- I can spot the phony ones a mile away -- word got out pretty quickly.) So I know whereof HR Guy (Gal?) speaks.

Helicopter parents mean well, and they also, without blinking, write me 700-word emails that conclude, "I'm very hands-off," so there's a bit of denial there about their level of involvement. It's the rare helicopter parent who says, "Yeah, I want to protect my kid from life's little hardships and I'm overinvolved, so sue me." Some kids end up rolling their eyes when the parents aren't around and let me know that they have their own opinions and are going to have their own voice in the process, maybe even a loud one. Others can't make a single decision without adult supervision, and I worry that their parents, in refusing to scooch them out out of the nest (or let them escape from the nest, as the case may be) have paralyzed them completely and prevented them from learning some important life skills that we acquire only through our own trial and error. I sound like a skeptical Gen-Xer, I know. All that helicoptering and extended adolescence might turn out to be wonderful developments. Time will tell.