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The relationship between parent and child is vital – but do we want to feel this at work?

It’s a tightrope for HR and organisations to walk – between power and responsibility, and respect and nurturing.

We have legal, ethical and moral responsibilities towards employees. We need goals, objectives, rules and policies so that people know where they stand. But no-one wants to be told what to do, or be talked down to.

The difference is behavioural – how people speak to others as well as what they say. For example, it can be good to be nurtured, and it’s appropriate sometimes. But the nurturer is ‘leaking’ that they feel responsible for the nurtured. It’s parental behaviour, and prompts a childlike response. Those of you who know Berne’s Transactional Analysis will know where I’m coming from – it’s a well-known and powerful way of looking at this, and I use it a lot with leaders when I work one-to-one or in groups with them.

On the other hand, micro-managing is a controlling behaviour that’s also parental – it’s the other side of the coin.

Adult-adult relationships are far more productive and rewarding, and influential HR functions help to drive this in organisational cultures as well as local actions.

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