Unhappy US workers bow out of bring your kid to work day

Showing junior the American dream is no longer so dreamy.
Showing junior the American dream is no longer so dreamy.
Image: AP Photo/Mark Lennihan
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Today, an estimated 19 million young people will head to their parents’ workplaces for Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day.

But many kids won’t. Their parents might offer the following explanations:

“Sorry, kid, but I really don’t like my job. You would have been miserable there too.” Or, “I want you to work someplace that respects you and values you—and my job doesn’t.”

On the 20th anniversary of what used to be called Take Our Daughters to Work Day, the event seems less relevant and the workplace seems more stressful than ever before. Originally, the day focused on girls’ futures and giving them “a way to be visible, valued, and heard differently by the media and in the marketplace,” founder Nell Merlino told Forbes.com.

In 2003, boys were included as girls started outperforming them on test scores, college graduation and more. Today, its mission has changed, and the day encourages children “to dream without limitations and to think imaginatively about their family, work, and community lives.”

Yet the reality isn’t so dreamy.

Many time-pressed parents may feel their kids already see too much of their work, with mom and dad constantly on their smartphones checking email or with the laptop a constant companion at movie night. Educators increasingly weigh in and say students cannot afford a day off, especially when they may be about to take their standardized tests.

For years, the day was popular at Fortune 500 companies, professional service firms and workplaces that needed to attract more female employees. Yet in recent years it seems to have fallen from favor. Even the Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day Facebook page has only 3,200 followers, and several mentioned their employer had cancelled the day.

Here are three big reasons parents and children may be passing on Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day:

Stress. One third of US workers say they’re totally dissatisfied with their on-the-job stress levels, more than twice the level who are unhappy with job security or flexible work hours, according to a Gallup poll. Three-quarters of American workers could identify at least one aspect of their work that is stressful, with low wages, annoying coworkers and unreasonable workloads at the top of their lists, another poll for Everest College found.

Secret searches. A survey by CareerBuilder showed that one-fourth of all workers were job hunting, though others show even higher share searching. Why bring in the kids to meet your co-workers when you can’t wait to exchange them for a new (and maybe nicer) crew?

Bad smells. Companies cannot expect to be seen as good places for kids and careers after accounting fraud, insider trading, lying to customers or pregnancy, age or racial discrimination suits. Even a pre-emptive layoff or a boss who doesn’t “get it” may create disgruntled staff. Parents are just as likely as workers without children to be disengaged from their employer, with 51-52% of both not committed, Gallup data analyzed for Quartz shows.

As I write this piece, a part of me feels like a cynic, someone who’s betraying young people in Detroit and Delhi and Dubai, who still need to see professional women and making key decisions and an opportunity “to dream without limitations.”

Yet to encourage youth to feel hopeful, they have to go to workplaces where hope and dreams share space in conference rooms.