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Helicopter parents in the workplace

Q: A 23 yr. old professional employee just walked off the job because I refused to allow her the use of sick leave to go for a pre-employment physical for a new job. Our HR dept. advised she should use personal, comp or vacation time. She was so angry she walked out and then I got a nasty phone call from her mother! Her mother had also called my superior. Can you comment on this?

A: If I understand the situation accurately, she resigned without notice because she wanted to use sick leave for a pre-employment physical for another job? I am assuming the other job is with another company and not an internal transfer or a new role with a different division or business unit of your company. I agree with your HR team that she should be required to use personal, compensation or vacation time. Even that, I think is extremely generous and professional. Some employers would have said, “Thanks for asking. Now you can clear out your desk and your cubicle. Here is your final paycheck. You have all the time needed to schedule your pre-employment physical.”


A mother calling about a child’s employment situation is also very concerning. I must tell you this is not the first time I have heard a parent interfering with their offspring’s career. Last year, I interviewed a recent college graduate for an available position with a client. We had more than 10 very strong and qualified candidates for this one open position. My client selected a candidate who accepted the offer. Shortly after the top candidate accepted, I informed the nine unsuccessful candidates that the offer had been extended to another candidate but all the candidates interviewed were well-qualified. I then received a voicemail message. The voicemail message was from a father of one of the unsuccessful candidates. The father is a CEO of a Massachusetts company. In short, he told me that I had made a “big mistake” in not offering his son a job. The tone of his message was semi-threatening.
I don’t think parents do their adult children any favors by inserting themselves into their child’s career issues. Recent college grads can certainly be counseled by parents on how to navigate certain challenges. However, placing a call or emailing an employer are examples of where parents are stepping over the line.
At the present time, employers are being bombarded with very strong candidates. And sometimes if another position becomes available, qualified candidates from a recent search are “re-reviewed” to see if their skills may be a match for this new position. It is important for job seekers to end every search process in a gracious and professional manner. Angry and hostile job seekers (or their parents!) are remembered and not in a good way.

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