Staffing: Are You Ready for Helicopter Parents?

by Christopher Arterberry, MS on Oct 24, 2008

With the growth in fitness-specific curricula in colleges and universities, new graduates are becoming an even more important human resource for the fitness industry. What employers may not expect, however, is who comes with these new hires: their parents. The current graduates, who belong to the generation known as the Millennials, have entered the workforce with a different parental relationship from that of previous generations in that it tends to be more of a friendship or a partnership. This is because their parents, the Baby Boomers, have raised them in a more sheltered and supported manner. Unfortunately, some parents may take their support too far and become "helicopter parents." describes helicopter parents as those who "hover over their children, swooping in to fight their battles and make their decisions for them." The problem is not that parents are involved, but rather when and how parents step in to help, which may prevent their children from gaining experience in handling life’s challenges. Here are a few ways in which helicopter parents might get involved in their children’s careers and what you, as a facility manager or owner, must consider when working with this new generation of workers.

Parental Involvement

It’s not at all new for some parents to steer their children toward one profession or another; what is new is helping the children to research specific careers and to choose possible options. When this happens, students may not have the opportunity to fully explore on their own who they are, what they believe and what they’re interested in doing, which could influence (positively or negatively) their fit for a given profession. This means that your candidate pool will require a little extra scrutiny. Getting to the heart of each candidate’s motivations for a given career or position will be key.

During the interview phase, you might encounter helicopter parents acting as agents for their children. Even after hiring, some parents continue to act on their offspring’s behalf by negotiating salary, benefits or other aspects of the job or work environment. You must decide if this type of familial leverage is something you are willing to deal with in your facility or department.

A Policy for Helicopter Parents

Every facility must determine its philosophy regarding the helicopter parent trend. How much parental involvement are you willing to accept during the hiring phase? How much once a young professional is on the job? Does your facility view parental involvement as a sign that a candidate would consider multiple viewpoints and collect relevant data when making decisions, or does it view this involvement as a reason to question a candidate’s ability to handle tough situations alone? This question is particularly valid for the fitness industry, where professionals will be making decisions that impact the health of others.

Clearly communicate your philosophy on helicopter parenting and your preferred approach to handling it. Convey guidelines to candidates, employees and, when necessary or appropriate, the parents themselves. Communication should occur in all phases of personnel management—recruitment, selection and performance management. Use whatever channels are appropriate for your facility (print, e-mail, Internet, intranet or social networking sites). Also, work with young professionals to create mentoring opportunities and a professional development plan. Some helicopter parents will back off if they see that someone is specifically looking out for their child’s best interests.

For more information, see the full article in the October 2008 issue of IDEA Fitness Manager or online in IDEA's Health and Fitness Article Library.

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About the Author

Christopher Arterberry, MS

Christopher Arterberry, MS IDEA Author/Presenter