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

Parents learn that when they push back against teachers, teachers raise grades, provide second, third, and fourth chances, and make things easier for their little darlings.

I don't blame the teachers, by the way. I cannot imagine the nightmare of being sandwiched in between parents and administrators and still trying to teach the kids something.

And so, this strategy works, and parents think it will continue to work, but it comes crashing down when the child reaches the work force. Here's why:

There Is Only One Winner

Unless you attend a school that grades on a curve, your grade is independent of everyone else's. So when one helicopter mom comes in and demands that her child receive bonus points for breathing, it doesn't mean that another child has to have her grade lowered. But, in the workplace, there are only so many open positions, so many promotions, and so much money for budgets. Not everyone gets hired. Complaining doesn't make the budget bigger.

Businesses Aren't in the Business of Self-Esteem

While I will advocate for niceness for the rest of my days, the workplace is about achievement, not niceness. We don't hire people to be nice. We hire them because we believe we can make more money with them working for us than we could earn without them working for us. Businesses aren't concerned about your child's future or current self-worth. If your child wouldn't be a productive part of our team, we don't want your child around, and no amount of your whining will change that.

You Don't Scare Me

Well, any mother that tries to force her way into a Skype interview does scare me a little bit, but just because it's super weird. But you don't scare me from a legal or career perspective, and you shouldn't scare any other recruiter or hiring manager. It's very easy to hang up on you and block your email.

You're Actually Damaging Your Child's Chances

In the NYT comment section, there were several examples:

Zenster: I interviewed a 20-something for a position and then later that day received a call from their mother wanting to know "how it went."
I replied your phone call just terminated their candidacy for the job, and hung up.

Marge Keller: Over the years, I have employed a fair amount of folks. If a candidate had brought along ANYONE to the interview (even to wait in the reception area) I would have immediately crossed that individual off of my list mentally. If a candidate can't do the interview solo, then he/she surely can't do the potential job solo either. Good grief -- there is a time and place for everything in life, especially in the work force.​

Lori: If you bring mommy or daddy to your job interview, benefit negotiation or work dispute, goodbye from me. I don't want anything to do with you as an employer, customer or patient. I want to deal with adults. I don't know why employers tolerate this for one second. Nobody is indispensable or that talented that an employer needs to put up with that crap.​

Now, of course, there are exceptions in which helicoptering is helpful. If mom or dad is powerful, they can influence their friends and relatives to hire a child, but unless the child can succeed on her own merits, her co-workers and managers will despise her presence. This, incidentally, is why family-owned businesses often have such a bad reputation--because they often put family members in positions of authority rather than hiring and promoting on a merit basis.

Published on: Jun 23, 2017