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Helicopter Parenting and Management Styles

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Much conversation has been made about Generation Y Milennials and their desire and ability to enter the workforce with a bang.  We’ve been trying to figure out how to channel their energy in the right direction as they seem to have a different understanding not only of the world but also of technology.  In many way’s it’s reminiscent of the 60’s (the baby boomers) and how they changed the economy.

However, a new theory stunned me in a conversation I had recently.  In this, some milennials will have every skill and worldly view we expect them to have, but noe of the ability to manage their own lives.  This is the theory of the helicopter parent, and the Gen Y child.  Helicopter parents are those that “hover” over their children at all times.  Another name for them are the soccer moms and dads.  They schedule every activity for their children and ferry them between groups, sports, and lessons all day long, week in and week out.

The theory states that this will produce an exceptionally gifted child.  The type of skills we’d all want to have in our own workforces.  These children will have the ability to think in teams (sports), be creative (art, dance, music), and are exceptionally analytical.  Unfortunately, they won’t be able to transition to managing themselves easily as they have always been “managed.”

While I don’t subscribe fully to this theory, I’m sure it will apply in some degree to a segment of the Gen Y population, possibly more than in prior generations.  Most competent people hate being micro-managed.  Micro-managers are needed because there are incompetent people out there who would either fail, or not get anything done without them.  Instead, here we may have a population that IS competent and may need closer supervision anyway.

The key is to identify which Gen Y’s need more attention quickly, the drawback being that you’ll lose people if you don’t manage them enough, or you’ll lose self directed people who you manage too much.  Once you know who your “needy” Gen Y’s are, it’s about weaning them off of supervision and building their confidence.  Of course they are already supremely confident, but they won’t necessarily instinctively make decisions without some guidance first.

Gen Y is still an extraordinarily high potential generation, but knowing how they were shaped and came to be HiPo’s can also help us get through some of the hurdles we’ll face with them.

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5 responses to “Helicopter Parenting and Management Styles”

  1. luis Avatar

    I like the post, and mostly because it gives some reality to discussions about a generation that is regarded as an exceptional one. I, by the way, agree that the potential might be there, but we still have not seen the population in action

  2. Ron Katz Avatar

    The key is that Gen Y, or Millenials, will need to be managed differently. If we are to take advantage of all that they have to offer, we need to recognize that they are valuable assets that our organizations need desperately.

    We need to manage them, and educate them, to be productive in the world of work where there are fewer safety nets. This means adapting to their needs and not just expecting them to slot into a work world that no longer exists. Millies are changing the world of work and we need to change how we manage and not just expect them to take us as we are. They won’t. (FYI, I am a boomer.)

  3. systematicHR Avatar

    Ron: Do you think millenials need to be managed differently because of who they are, or perhaps that the boomers and Gex X’ers need to be different managers based on the changes in technology and infrastructure that have taken place in the last 2 decades? maybe we’re looking at this from the wrong direction?

  4. Ron Katz Avatar

    Well, it’s probably a combination of both things you mention. There’s no question that the changes in technology and infrastructure that have taken place in the last 2 decades affect the way managers manage. But a big part of this is who the Millies are and let’s not forget who made them that way. We (their boomer parents) did!

    This is a generation that has been raised to believe that they are entitled to everything. They are the smartest, most savvy group to enter the workforce, or so they believe (p.s., every generation has thought this). Because of this attitude, plus the belief that we need them and their tech skills so much, they are fearless in their attitudes and relationships toward work and employers. They want a “cool” workplace and will keep moving around til they find it.

    If we want to retain this talented group, we are going to have to change the way we recruit and manage them. People don’t change just for the machines (technology). They will change for other people. Because in the end, we still relate better to people, not the technology (heck, most of us are willing to admit we don’t understand the technology most of the time). Change is hard for lots of people. Many people are resistant to change for technology’s sake. But for human beings, especially the ones we think we need to survive…for them we’ll change the way we manage.

  5. Griffin Avatar

    Having been an educator of “gen Y” in the United States, and now a manager who expects this population to work its way into the workforce in the next few years, I can say I don’t look forward to the experience. I wonder if mum and dad won’t be on the phone the moment I write one of these uberkinder up when they won’t take direction, need critique or direct guidance, or otherwise must listen to a “totes lol” elder.

    These kids can be fooled to do things, but managed… that’s hard for us managers and scary for our future.