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Blog/September 20, 2011

Are You a Helicopter Boss?

Have you ever worked for someone who controlled everything you did, day in and day out, telling you what to do, how to do it and when to do it? This boss was checking in constantly, making suggestions and hovering above, even though you did not ask for nor need any help or support. These micromanagers can be referred to as “helicopter bosses,” a term coined from its counterpart phrase “helicopter parents.”

Helicopter parents often have very good intentions, but they feel they have to control every aspect of their children’s lives to prevent them from failing. These parents hover over their kids, planning and monitoring their every move, without letting them figure out solutions to their problems on their own. Helicopter bosses treat their employees like these parents treat their children. These managers hover over their employees and make all of the decisions. Employees are not allowed to take risks or solve problems on their own. What this accomplishes is that employees are prevented to learn, develop and grow.

You are probably a helicopter boss if:

  • You do not trust others to perform work on their own.
  • You refuse to delegate anything because no one can do it as well or as fast as you can.
  • You are constantly checking in and hovering over your direct reports, even when they have not asked for your help.
  • You are burned out and lack work/life balance.
  • Your team suffers from low morale because you second-guess everything it does.
  • Your team has a high turnover rate.
  • Your team produces low-quality work and/or is not productive.
  • Your team is not profitable.
  • Your team lacks bench strength in terms of successorship.

If you are a helicopter boss and do not allow your employees to make at least some of their own decisions, you set yourself up to have a dissatisfied and unproductive workforce. Many of your talented employees will simply leave rather than put up with a manager who constantly hovers and micromanages. Research indicates that one the top reasons people leave companies is because of poor relationships with their managers. Replacing these employees can cost up to 2.5 times of their salaries, which takes its toll on the company’s bottom line.

Good managers do not hover over their employees. They involve their people in the decision-making process by teaching them how to make good decisions for the organization. Good managers do not problem solve for their employees, but instead coach them to solve problems on their own. Good managers trust their employees, and in turn that trust is reciprocated. By not micromanaging every aspect of their people’s jobs, good managers help employees develop and grow, which benefits the entire organization.

If you have ever worked with this type of manager and would like to share your experiences, we would love to hear from you.

Note: The following are excerpts from the author’s article “Are You a Helicopter Boss?” which appeared in the 2010 #3 issue of FMI Quarterly. You may download the entire article at: http://hale.sg-host.com/helicopter-boss.html

Want to know more?