Employee Engagement

The Helicopter Boss: 3 Ways Millennials Have Been Impacted By Micromanaging Parents


There’s no doubt about it – our behaviors and habits are heavily influenced by how we were raised. And these things manifest themselves in a variety of ways in our lives: from the way we parent our children to the way we simply lead our lives. But have you ever thought about how that might affect your performance in the office? It does.

So it’s all the more important that we understand the effect that parenting can have on employees when we consider Millennials. In the last few years, countless articles have dissected this generation, and tangentially many of the habits their parents instilled. Does “participation trophies” strike a chord?

Good, bad, or indifferent, the unique style of parenting Millennials that’s taken place over the last twenty-or-so years has shaped offices all across the country, including yours. And that means that understanding the best and worst of those habits has a serious effect on your bottom line.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the ways that Millennial’s parents have changed the way our offices operate–and in response, how we can use this information to manage Millennials better.


The Need For An Assistant

From a technological perspective, we’ve come a long way in the world of personal assistance. Not only do you have access to all the world’s information with a simple search query, but you can also use voice-activated AI to get to it. For Millennials, this concept is far from new (and not just because they’re digital natives): they grew up with parents who acted like personal assistants.

Millennial’s parents have been referred to as “helicopter parents” for a long time now–and it’s rooted, seemingly, in the desire to help their children achieve their highest potential. Whether it’s shuttling them to their second sports practice of the day, making sure that science homework is perfect, or just “proofreading” their college essay a little bit before it goes out, Millennial’s parents have been a little too involved at almost every step in their child’s development.

The effects are twofold: for starters, it has created a need for a much more involved manager. And secondly, it has created a desire for a more balanced life.

The temptation can be to become a helicopter boss yourself, but micromanagement is not the answer. For children who’ve been “micro-parented” their whole lives, there’s a much higher chance that they have low self-esteem, and a harder time making independent decisions. Certainly not the makings of an A-Team.

As Forbes points out, “[Parents] involvement in [Millennial children’s] decisions tacitly speaks for how much [parents] believe in their [child’s] ability to do things on their own.” In other words, unsurprisingly, micromanaging parents have actually made it harder for their children to live up to their fullest potential.

So while your employees may need some more affirmation than you’re used to handing out, that doesn’t mean you should fall for the trap of coddling them more. Instead, break their bad habits by forcing them to make more independent decisions, and empowering them to be confident about the tasks their accomplishing. And in the end, you can reward them with the work/life balance they some demonstrably crave.

In short: give your millennial employees the independence they’ve always craved. While micromanagement is an easy short-term fix, it only furthers disempowerment.

In this case, as a manager, the heavy falls on you to be the one who has to force this independence on your employees. While you can provide them plenty of attention and feedback, you also have to know when to simply let them figure it out. The more you try and do their work for them, the more those muscles of independence will simply atrophy.

Instead, create an environment that helps them to feel connected, using dashboard technology and innovative communication tools, while still empowering them to work on their own–and on their own schedule.


A Confidence To Achieve

We may chuckle at a good participation trophy quip, but it’s no joke: from a young age, Millennials have been instilled with a specific sense of fairness, equity, and the value of simply showing up. In many instances, participating wasn’t the bare minimum. It was award winning behavior.

On the other hand, this mindset infused a massive wave of confidence in children that they could be great at anything they did–and that in turn created an expectation that they would be great at anything they tried.

In a now infamous article, Time magazine pointed this fact out: “Millennials received so many participation trophies growing up that 40 percent of them think they should be promoted every two years – regardless of performance.”

But as the editor’s introduction to that article goes on to explain, there’s a silver lining: this isn’t simply laziness, and can’t just be explained by a coddled upbringing. “Rather than being inherently self-centered or overconfident, millennials are just adapting quickly to a world undergoing rapid technological change. They’re optimistic, they’re confident and they’re pragmatic at a time when it can be difficult just to get by.”

Whatever your opinion on the participation trophy culture may be, it’s important to acknowledge that Millennials are growing up in a culture of lightning-fast change. And rather than buckling under the pressure, they’re pushing forward with confidence and (generally) positivity.

Our advice to managers: lean into this confidence. Your Millennials employees are ready for the challenges that come with rapid change. They’re ready to adapt to new technology in your office, to experiment with new engagement initiatives, and they’re going to respond really well to your encouragement.

We can harp on Millennials for how they were brought up, or we can believe in their best for the growth of your company. The choice is yours. But if you choose to really believe in your Millennial employees, and you become the sort of employer that they, in turn, can believe in, you’ll be amazed at how they can rise to the occasion.