Helicopter Parents and Boomerang Kids

Welcome to the August 9, 2006 edition of The Total View
published by Success Performance Solutions, Written by Ira S. Wolfe

1.    Helicopter Parents and Boomerang Kids

For some parents, you’ve completed the marathon only to find out they’ve moved the finish line. For employers, the light at the end of the tunnel turns out to be a locomotive.

Much has been written about Generation X, those born between 1964 and 1980. The Xers challenged managers with their independent attitudes, demanding meteoric career paths while securing a health dose of work-life balance. To make matters more difficult, this generation of replacement workers numbered less than half of the preceding Baby Boomers. In other words, just at a time when Boomers were jumping ship for new opportunities or preparing for early retirement, their replacements walked, talked and worked nothing like them.

Over a decade has passed since the Gen-Xers first entered the workforce and most managers have accepted Xers – even if they still don’t like the attitude. Now come the Millenials. or Generation Y. Here’s the good news: The Gen-Y numbers nearly 80 million strong, comparable if not even larger than the Boomers. Here’s the bad: The pendulum has swung: while Gen-Xers grew up with latch-keys, Gen-Yers were the children of soccer moms.

What does this mean for employers? Remember a time when high school graduates got a job and went off to college. These young adults couldn’t wait to be on their own, renting apartments or buying houses, getting married and starting families. They left home rarely to return again. Fast forward to 2006 and the world of "helicopter parents" and "boomerang kids." And while we’re at it, let’s throw in another group: the sandwich generation.

Today, many kids don’t leave home. Just a decade or three ago, employees living at home were doomed to no-growth careers. Men living at home were considered momma boys. Time’s are a-changin’. According to the National Survey of Households and Families, 10 percent of all children over the age of 25 now live with their parents. Even more surprising is that one third of all American men between the ages of 22 and 34 still live with their parents, an increase of 100 percent in the last two decades, according to the Census Bureau.

For parents the whistle has blown but your shift isn’t over. Even when children leave, your privacy and solitude is not safe. Statistics indicate that the boomerang kid phenomenon is indeed on the increase and has doubled over the last 50 years, from 20 to 40 percent. Recent reports indicate the trend promises to intensify. Jobtrak.com, an online job service for students, recently surveyed college students and found that 60 percent of them said they planned to live with their parents after graduation. Twenty-four percent said they planned to live with them for more than a year. Even adult children return home after a failed relationship, sometimes with the grandchildren too.

These boomerang kids challenge home life for a significant segment of the workforce. While catching these young adults on the rebound, many boomers in their 40s and 50s are also finding themselves people caught between the often conflicting demands of raising children and caring for aging parents or other relatives.  Welcome to the Sandwich Generation.

Almost 3 in 10 of those aged 45 to 64 with unmarried children under 25 in the home, or some 712,000 individuals, were also caring for a senior, according to a study based on the 2002 General Social Survey. More than 8 in 10 of these sandwiched individuals worked, causing some to reduce or shift their hours or to lose income.

Indeed, caring for an elderly person could lead to a change in work hours, refusal of a job offer, or a reduction in income. Some 15% of sandwiched workers had to reduce their hours, 20% had to change their schedules and 10% lost income. Also, 4 in 10 sandwiched workers incurred extra expenses such as renting medical equipment or purchasing cell phones.

And if managing Sandwiched workers and Gen-Xers wasn’t enough here comes the Helicopter parents. Parents of millennials have been obsessive about ensuring the safety of their children. When the first wave was born in the early 1980s, "Baby on Board" signs began popping up on minivans. They were buckled into child-safety seats, fitted with bike helmets, carpooled to numerous after-school activities. These kids, our newest wave of employees, are confident, achievement-oriented and used to hovering "helicopter" parents keeping tabs on their every move.

Helicopters parents are now crossing the line from being involved with their children’s employment to actually running the show for them. Remember the big-mouth parent at Little League? That was nothing. Parents of Millenials are continuing the intense oversight this generation has been known for all along: challenging poor grades, negotiating with coaches and helping kids register for college. Overinvolved parents meddle in college registration and interfering with students’ dealings with professors, administrators and roommates. Students who get frustrated or confused during registration have been known to interrupt their advisers to whip out a cellphone, speed-dial their parents and hand the phone to the adviser, saying, "Here, talk to my mom."

Now helicopter parents are going to work. Managers are getting phone calls from parents asking them to hire their 20-something kids. Candidates are stalling on job offers to consult with their parents. Parents are calling hiring managers to negotiate pay packages.

There you have it: an aging workforce, mobile and independent Gen-Xers, stretched and stressed Sandwiched boomers, and doted kids of soccer moms. Planning for tomorrow’s workforce will require open-mindedness and adaptability. Managing human resources will require vision and innovation. Recruitment and retention is no longer suited for the meek and mild. The Perfect Labor Storm is not passing quickly and its path is increasingly complex and unpredictable.

2.  Perfect Labor Storm Alerts # 562 to 564

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Fact #562:   Nearly 31 percent of U.S. workers have witnessed co-workers engage in ethical misconduct, yet only 52 percent of them reported it to management. (Source: October 2005 Hudson ethics-in-the-workplace study)

Fact #563:  The Census Bureau estimates that the overall pool who would be in the military’s prime target age has shrunk as Americans age.  There were 1 million fewer 18- to 24-year olds in 2004 than in 2000.

Fact #564:  Out of 32 million Americans age 17 to 24, most do not qualify to serve in the military.  2.3 million qualify for medical or misdemeanor waivers, 2.6 million disqualify due to medical problems, and 4.6 million are disqualified for criminal history, obesity and dependents.  (Source: U.S. Army)

Don’t be caught in storm without all the facts. "The Perfect Labor Storm Fact Book: Why Worker Shortages Won’t Go Away" is a must-read leading edge forecast that predicts workforce trends for decades to come. Order your copy today – Only $7.95.

3.  Generational Style Assessment

Test your ability to communicate with Gen X, Gen Y, Boomers, and Traditionalists. Our NEW Generational Style Assessment evalautes the communication or relational style you typically use when interacting with individuals or groups of people from different generations. It then provides you insight into those styles that work for you, and what to do about the styles that don’t. This self-scoring workbook includes the questionnaire, response sheet, how to interpret your results, and how to understand the different styles.

More about the Generational Style Assessment:

4. Quotes from Hire Authorities

Who neglects learning in his youth loses the past and is dead for the future.

5.  Managing the Generation Mix

No doubt about it. The newest diversity issue in the workplace is age diversity. Many organizations have finally figured out how to recruit young talent only to watch them drive down a collision course with seasoned employees over issues like work ethic, respect for authority, dress code and every work arrangement imaginable. To learn what you can do about dealing with Generational Conflicts:

More about Manager’s Pocket Guides to Managing the Generations:

Managing the Generation Mix

Managing Generation Y

Managing Generation X

Ira S. Wolfe Copyright 2006 – All Rights Reserved. Reprints and other distribution by permission only.


Ira S Wolfe