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Helicopter Parents in the Workplace?

Picture this: you are an HR Manager for ABC Company. Recently, one of your younger staff members has been given a poor performance appraisal. The next day, you answer your phone only to be given a stern talking-to by this employee’s parent, upset that Junior has been taken to task over his work performance. Or perhaps, having offered a candidate a position, the prospect’s father then calls to negotiate the salary.

Kate Moore, RPR
MQ Editor
As crazy as this may sound, it's a phenomenon that has already made its appearance in the universities and colleges now attended by the so-called Millenial Generation (also known as Generation Y). The term ~Shelicopter parents~T gained notoriety in the American college system as this generation grew to college age. Professors told stories of parents calling to complain about poor grades, check on exam schedules and even parents who called their children each morning to wake them up. It doesn't just start in college; there is plenty of anecdotal evidence of parents calling grade school teachers and asking them to change Junior's grades, parents haranguing coaches because Billy hasn't been on the soccer field enough and complaining to school administrators when Janie faces consequences for bad behaviour at school. What will be the outcome of this type of parental involvement? I surmise that many young people of this generation will grow up not understanding that in the real world there are consequences for their actions. If Mom and Dad step in to fix things every time a child fails a test, pushes another child in the school yard or doesn't make the soccer team, that child will never have to deal with consequences or disappointment. What, then, happens when this child grows up and enters the workforce?

A manager is not going to discuss work performance, salary increases or anything related to any employee because of privacy considerations. More importantly, that manager is likely to be left with a negative impression of that worker (whether he knew his parents were going to call or not) that could sabotage the employee's career. It is hard to believe that these parents cannot see, despite their own life experience, what a negative impression this makes on an employer, and how detrimental it can be to the careers of their children. It is understandable that parents want the best for their children, and want to shelter them from the difficulties of life, but truly the greatest gifts a parent can give a child to ensure a happy and successful future are confidence and self-reliance, and these are traits that develop from making mistakes, solving one's own problems and being given the freedom to achieve goals on one's own.

Does Your Organization Need a Check-up?

Are your employees overwhelmed, disorganized and trying to juggle too many tasks at the same time? Are they having difficulty focusing, accessing information quickly and struggling to maintain their equilibrium? Are the goals and objectives of your organization being compromised as a result?

Ann Max
Organized to
the Max Ltd.
Feelings of despair and overwhelming loss of control are not unusual today. With expanding technology, expectations for work and life are magnified and accelerated. People are expected to do more with less yet their responsibilities have not abated. We play so many roles; have so many obligations and in many cases are responding to the expectations of others instead of really determining what we want and need to survive. It is incumbent upon organizations today to provide a productive and organized environment for staff to succeed in their own careers and ultimately to effectively promote the company culture and goals.

Organization is defined as “the day-to-day workings, — the systems, natural or designed by humans — of a place or a life. To arrange systematically for harmonious or united action”. Organization requires systems, processes and procedures that contribute to your efficiency. Very often, in our struggle to react to the daily demands, we lose sight of the necessity for structure and order to maintain our productivity. Within totally reactive environments we display symptomatic signs of disorganization, inefficiency and indecisiveness.

Use the following checklist to determine which areas of improvement would benefit your culture.

1. Does your organization’s mission translate into a clear, concise mission statement?
Is your mission statement current? Does it simply and accurately reflect your values and work? Does it explain why you exist and what you hope to achieve in the future? Most important is how recently the actual statement was reviewed by the entire staff. Is it still relevant to them? You may have it posted throughout the office, but does anyone really know it exists? Is it being used to inspire, motivate and encourage?

2. Does each department, each manager and subsequently each staff member have a clear, concise, written set of goals that support the mission statement? Are these goals regularly reviewed and acknowledged and are all staff members aware of each other’s goals?
When life becomes overwhelming, it is essential to take time to reevaluate your needs, your vision and reestablish your personal values. Employees who are encouraged to translate that into establishing goals for themselves that reflect the mission statement will reward the organization with increased productivity.

3. Have all the goals been translated into projects that are well-planned, thought out and executed in a timely manner?
Today’s employees wear many hats. It is difficult to juggle all the duties, deal with the interruptions and prioritize without specific project management plans. Whether training, coaching, mentoring or software is provided, project management knowledge will assist everyone in maintaining a balanced workload.

4. Does management set out expectations for all staff?
Employees consistently identify the fact that they do not know what is expected of them. There are many assumptions, but little communication as to hopes, plans, objectives or anticipated outcomes. Determine what you want from your organization; identify what each staff member can do to help you achieve these goals. Encourage them to state what they need from you to help them in their quest.

5. Do you communicate properly, regularly and effectively?
Effective communication is critical to your success. Whether you communicate verbally, physically, mentally or emotionally, it provides the basis for all understanding and relationships. Poor communication leads to delays or errors in decision-making, lack of employee involvement, and poor morale and teamwork. Communication takes the form of regular individual staff meetings with management (efficiently run); team meetings; opportunities for sharing and downright fun and laughter in the work environment. Provide opportunities for staff to acknowledge and understand personalities and quirks and identify their characters, strengths and weaknesses. Adapt your communication style to these different individuals.

6. Do you work in a reactive atmosphere?
If all of your activities seem urgent and you are constantly responding to crises and pressing problems, you will eventually burn out. Your staff receive confusing messages, will have to deal with unrealistic deadlines and will have difficulty establishing and maintaining priorities. Invest more time in planning so you can anticipate and prevent problems and empower others to take care of situations as they arise.

7. Do you operate in an organized environment?
Is everyone able to access files, papers, email and information quickly and efficiently? Are your information processes regularly updated? Do you have central areas for common files and procedures?
Clutter is postponed decisions. Clutter is a hindrance and is overwhelming. Ensure that the physical layout, paper files, information processing and systems are well-organized according to established organizing principles. Discard what is no longer relevant; set up corporate information management procedures that are regularly updated and available to all.

8. Are there systems, policies and procedures that support the workload?
Do you have regularly updated, well understood Standard Operating Procedures? Are staff consulted and trained on these procedures? Or do you have ad hoc, inconsistent processes that bog down productivity? Encourage input from employees to regularly update and maintain your procedures. Provide regular training sessions to sustain the knowledge.

9. Have you set ground rules for dealing with emails, interruptions and meetings?
One of the most important organizing principles is grouping common entities together. By establishing shared procedures, time will not be wasted on ineffective communication or redundancy. Meet with your staff to establish common rules for running meetings: e.g. start on time, no stupid questions, always an agenda, etc. Agree on rules and etiquette for emails: e.g. do not cc everyone, use short accurate subject lines, start with the conclusion, etc. Determine ways to avoid or shorten interruptions: set up a flag as a do-not-disturb; create forms that are easily accessible: place inboxes outside offices, etc.

10. Does your staff manage their time well?
Time management is about taking control of your time. If you find the employees are spinning their wheels in unproductive ways, assist them in setting goals, developing their action plan, managing their workload and prioritizing projects. Help them deal with interruptions and time wasters by providing sessions that encourage communication within departments. Encourage them to plan their time so they achieve their goals and support company mission statements and action plans.

Just as regular checkups promote better personal health for individuals, corporate organizational checkups promote organizational effectiveness and productivity. You owe it to yourself, your staff and management to maintain your organizational health on a regular basis.

Ann Max is President of Organized to the Max Ltd, a professional organizing firm dedicated to improving organizational effectiveness, and Chancellor of OrganizeU, a division of Organized to the Max Ltd and a premium provider of training in organization effectiveness and productivity. www.OrganizedtotheMax.com.


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