Take Your Parent to Work Day

Today I watched and then weighed in on a Twitter-dialogue about those damn Millenials.

Someone whose views I respect (@spydergrrl) made a Twitter-observation that some organizations are going so far as to add waiting rooms for the parents of Millenials that are coming in for interviews. The response was quick and in some instances nasty, saying that no way, no how would they EVER hire someone who showed up with their parent.

And while I have to admit that my own initial response to reading that was: Pfftttt. I quickly took exception to how black and white some people were being.

Then my thoughts went off in two directions:

1- I KNOW parents who would accompany their kids to an interview and quite honestly, the kid may not have a choice. Yes, I know we are talking about young adults here, but you have to keep in mind that these kids have had their parents plan and hover over them their entire lives. Check it out here and here. Do you think that the parents are just going to back off now?

How hard is it to tell a parent to back-off? Well, I’m newly 42 and still can’t manage to make my own mother understand that I am perfectly capable of managing my life. And she isn’t even a “helicopter parent”. When a parent decides to dig their heels in…it’s for real.

2 – So what? So what if your candidate shows up to an interview with someone who happens to be a parent? What if they came in with a friend or a sister or their boyfriend/girlfriend. Would you react the same way? Or would you think…hmmm, guess they brought along moral support.

I’m not saying that this is ideal, but all things considered…is it the worst thing they could do? I mean, we are talking about the accompanying parent sitting in a room and waiting, not speaking on behalf of the candidate or trying to come into the actual interview.

In fact, many organizations are going even further than this and have encouraged employees to bring their parents to work. In this article, Lynn Lancaster, the co-author of The M Factor: How the Millennial Generation is Rocking the Workplace, is quoted as saying:

“…it’s all about finding an appropriate balance. On one hand, becoming a self-actualizing individual is a key step in the maturation process. On the other, young people are closer to their parents than any previous generation, which isn’t a bad thing.”

“Millennials have grown up seeking their parents’ counsel on everything – soccer teams, picking a school, creating a résumé – so in some ways the extension of this relationship into the early professional years makes sense,” says Lancaster. She agrees that smart companies are figuring out how to make a connection with parents. Smart millennials, meanwhile, should remember that getting a job isn’t a team sport.

As the parent of a 17-year old, I am frequently challenged with not crossing the line. She recently had a job interview and yes I coached her, helped her prep her answers, and would have even driven her to the interview if I had been available. I would have likely chosen to stay and wait in the car, but then I would have been keen to debrief with her afterwards.

As a parent, I think that you have to be able to distinguish “caring” from “controlling”.

As an employer, I think you have to be able to differentiate between “wanting support” from “being dependent”. And I’m not whether any employer who would automatically eliminate a candidate based on them arriving to an interview with a parental figure would be able to make this distinction.

In the same article, Lorne Friese (Talent Egg) pointed out with respect to Millenials:

“Of course, a prospective employer isn’t going to tell you that you didn’t get a leadership position because you brought your parents to a job interview,” says Friese, “but there is still the matter of the impression you make.”

I do recognize that it’s probably not the best move to bring mom or dad along with you and that you have to take a lot of other factors into consideration: the nature of job, the candidate’s stage in life, etc…but the point is that there should not be one answer to this situation.

Part of me wonders whether some of those people on Twitter that vehemently stated that if a Millenial “can’t stand on their own two feet”, or “need to cut the cord”, or are “incapable of being a mature adult” they won’t make it, might not be a bunch of bitter latch-key Gen-Xers who are still pissed off that mom and dad didn’t attend their dance recital back in 1982.

But then that would be generalizing, wouldn’t it?


6 thoughts on “Take Your Parent to Work Day

  1. Amazing the amount of discussion my observation garnered, eh? I have to say I was taken aback by the knee-jerk reactions and even some downright vitriol. I had the same thoughts as you, hence my comment for everyone to take a breath and check their tolerance levels.

    My career has been untraditional: I started working in the tech bubble, so high risk, casual work environments and lots of moving around define my career to date. So I try to be open to new ways of doing things; in this case, I was more surprised than anything else. Think about the message these companies are sending: we want to hire you, so if that means giving your parents a comfy place to sit while we chat with you, then “please go through the second door on the left and help yourself to some coffee, Dad.” I find it incredibly open-minded and welcoming that companies should recognize the pattern and then actually choose to welcome those parents, rather than holding their presence against the interviewees. I’m pretty sure that part of the story was entirely lost in the Twitter dialogue (a definite shortcoming of 140 character conversations).

    There is so much more to this story, but clearly we have work to do if we are to make Millenials feel welcome to the workplace. We fought our own battles against the traditionalist mindsets of our parents and their parents; now is the time to check ourselves to make sure we’re not limiting our thinking and inadvertently (or worse yet, deliberately) kicking the new kids off our own lawns. Thanks for continuing the dialogue!

    • Tanya,

      Thank you for taking the time to add to this post. Your initial Tweet was interesting and somewhat innocent, but then all went to hell. Lol.

      I have typically worked in more traditional environments so I haven’t had as much exposure to diverse work perks, but I remember butting heads as a younger worker against those that refused to consider anything beyond “the way it has always been done”.

      The reality is that businesses are changing and adapting to meet client need. Changing in ways that they probably never thought they would. I don’t see why it should be such a stretch to apply this adaptability and openness to your internal clients – employees (or future employees).

      I’m still not entirely comfortable with the level of hand-holding that may be happening right up to the interview door, but just because I wouldn’t do it, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s wrong.

      As quoted in the blog post – I think it’s about finding a balance that allows businesses to welcome and integrate new employees and what is important to them, but still ensure that business needs are met and that the right people are being hired.

      Once again – thank you for commenting.


  2. When they’re still living at home, or at school, it’s understandable that young applicants don’t see the importance of standing alone. An interview for a job or internship may seem no different than any other appointment– college, doctor,… therapist. Mom takes them, because Mom is paying, and Mom takes care of everything. As a Gen-X manager, I am sometimes baffled at the combination of entitlement, immaturity, and irresponsibility of many Gen-Y, and now Gen-Z applicants.
    You’re right about the controlling parents, though. I experience parents asking about job opportunities for their kids much more often now. And, I recently had a mother of a college student come to my office without an appointment, and made an entire pitch for why her daughter should get an internship position (which the daughter had not applied for yet). When she didn’t get the position, the mother came back to my office, and practically demanded that I reconsider.
    Frightening on a number of levels, but thought provoking on a few more.

  3. @theprogramdirector

    Yes, as a Gen-Xer myself I am a bit baffled by this too and even as a parent, I would never consider walking in with my kids or trying to pimp their career (as opposed to supporting or promoting).

    However, I am frequently blown away by the “combination of entitlement, immaturity, and irresponsibility” of Boomers and Gen-X alike…particularly in relation to the younger workers. Apparently these conditions are not age specific.

    This is a larger discussion than my mini-rant, but a point to be made is that the world is changing and we need to adapt. There is no one right way to apply for a job and there is certainly not only one right way to handle candidates.

    Thank you so much for taking the time to read and respond.


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