Is your helicopter parent hurting your career?

Are Gen Yers getting a bad reputation in the workplace? There seems to be two sides of the story – as you find in most situations.

Last week, I was interviewed in the Democrat & Chronicle on how organizations should rethink feedback in the workplace with the Gen Yers. Receiving feedback on a more frequent basis has been a best practice trend for several years, why would this be a hot button.

It seems to be a straightforward request…until I went to a meeting the other night.

“You were in the Democrat & Chronicle on Sunday,” a fellow woman executive said to me.

“Yes. The article was about Gen Yers and how the traditional performance review process may not meet their need for more frequent feedback”, I said.

“Ah, yes” she says, “they need to grow up. The Gen Yers are looking for instant gratification. They are used to getting everything right away. In fact, my daughter was talking to me about it the other day. She is 32 and told me she is experiencing generational differences in the workplace! She has already had an encounter with a helicopter parent.”

As the story goes…the daughter manages a large group of people. She takes people development seriously and is spreading her time too thinly. Why, because the new hires (20’s) are requiring constant feedback or “atta girls or boys” for the slightest task performed. It is tiring, even for a 32 year old.

In one instance, one of her employees fails to meet some assignment deadlines. During the performance review, the assessment clearly outlines the lack of discipline and results reflecting a poor rating. A few days later, her daughter receives a phone call from the employee’s parent.

“You can’t give my son this review, it has to be changed” the parent says. “My son has always received the highest marks when he was in school. There must have been something wrong for him to get this kind of rating.”

“Yes, there is something wrong. Your son did not complete the project on time. He needs to step up and hold himself accountable for poor work quality. The rating is not changing,” says the daughter.

It seems there are other cases of helicopter parenting, especially in the education system. The executive tells me situations where parents call their kid’s college level professors to negotiate or influence a change in grade.  The parents do not even reside in the state, yet provide excuses why the student was unable to complete the homework or fails the test. Are we teaching the right lessons?

Now, I understand the helicopter parent – the one who hovers over their child and manages their life being protective and minimizing failures. Need more examples: click here and here and here and finally here.

Understand the consequences – if your parent intercedes in the workplace, it demonstrates your inability to be accountable for your own actions. Organizations have a relationship with you, not your parents. They expect that you can function independently and know how to learn from failure.

If you need their advice, do it privately – that is what I did.

Author: Lynn Dessert

Lynn Dessert is a certified ICF and NLP Coach specializing in Executive Career coaching in Charlotte NC. She works with individuals to accelerate their career advancement and organizations to fast track leadership skill development. Her career eBooks What To Do After Being Fired and The Secrets to Successful Job On-Boarding give you a roadmap to DIY. Start your discovery process by contacting her at 704.412.2852 today.

Share This Post On


  1. Lynn this is great article and an important topic. I have heard the stories over the last few years and sometimes wondered if the stories were made up, exaggerated or just rare events. But I can now attest that they do exist, and are far too common.

    The reputation is for Gen Yers is real, is bad, and often deserved. That doesn’t mean they are all that way, but a significant amount of them have the mentioned expectations and take the action that leads to it (sharing or going to their parents about the items, even though the Yers are adults now).

    As Ted points out, their parents do a lot of damage, in the school systems, in the business world, society and perhaps worst of all, to their children. What comes to mind is the saying “Give me a fish and I eat for a day, teach me to fish and I eat for a lifetime.” Unless we teach and prepare our children and young adults for the expectations, workings and realities of the world they step forward in, they will always be dependent on someone else doing it for them as well as out of sync with the rest of the world.

    Parents have the most significant influence here. I don’t think many of these well meaning parents realize that, by their behavior, they not only delay “growing up” (as well as the damage to the people and institutions around them), but also ingrain expectations and associated behaviors which takes a long time to change. The change is then harder, more painful, and disillusioning.

    It is very possible that after the Yers go through this adjustment and become truly independent, they will turn on those who created the false expectations, their “protectors”, their parents.

    As life seems ironic sometimes, I wonder how the Yers will manage their parent’s nursing home years?

    Post a Reply
  2. OMG! I recognize myself in this! I need an intervention! : ) WHY does my generation “helicopter” over our off spring?

    Post a Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *