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Do you work for a helicopter boss or are you one yourself?

a puppet master boss pulling the strings of employees

Do you work for a helicopter boss or are you one yourself?

Generally speaking, no one likes being micromanaged, but more than likely, you’ve worked with a micromanager at some point in your career. 

An employee’s drive and ambition are quickly killed when a helicopter boss is in the mix. Along with affecting the employees, micromanagers also create environments of distrust, over-dependence, and stress. 

The crazy thing is, so many micromanagers don’t even realize what they are doing. No one wants to think of themselves as a helicopter boss, which means we need to take a closer look at ourselves and ask the tough questions: 

  • Are you compelled to constantly tell people the “right” way to do things, as opposed to training them and asking for results?
  • Are you personally offended and frustrated if you find an employee performing below your standards?
  • Do you have all of the work pass through you so you can tweak it as you see fit before it’s completed?
  • Are you requiring constant updates on work assigned to those that work with you?
  • Do you resist delegating tasks?
  • Have you ever frustrated others about details to show your authority? 

If any of these sound personally familiar, you might be a micromanager. Instead of keeping this toxic mindset, ask yourself how you can keep your employees accountable without following them every step of the way? 

Another way to move out of this mindset is to get to the root of the problem and find out why you feel the need to micromanage. For most people, the “need” to micromanage comes from experiencing a disconnect in the workplace. This can happen because they were recently promoted or because they are no longer in the hands-on position they use to be in.  

They will have to take time to get used to their new position and figure out what their new goals should be in this role. It all boils down to trust, and sometimes micromanagers have issues trusting others. 

While it’s true you may have to review and edit projects in the beginning of your transition phase, you’ll need to step back eventually and trust your team to do what they’ve been trained to do. 

For our team, the best thing we ever did was create our operating standards together, which we put together to create Landscape University. That was one of the most empowering moments for our team. 

So, what can be done to help the situation? 

It’s never easy to work with a helicopter boss, and it’s even more difficult at times to really understand why they act this way. First of all, I encourage you to start the process by taking an inward look to see if something you are doing is triggering their micromanaging. Our knee-jerk reaction to situations like these is to blame the other person, but sometimes we are the ones that need to grow and change. 

However, sometimes it’s not triggered by anything we’re doing. Sometimes, we just need to be the ones to help our leaders grow and develop. 

Second, take a close look at the quality of your work and listen to what your leader is saying. Ask questions and get specific reasons for why they are displeased with the work your team is performing. 

If you feel comfortable enough asking, inquire about previous employees that your leader admired and find out exactly what it was about those people that was well-received. Then, take this information and duplicate it if you can. 

Third, don’t be afraid to be a proactive communicator with your leaders, and make sure you do this frequently. Find out which method of communication your leader prefers and make that the regular way you communicate with them. This will help keep them in the loop and potentially ease the need to hover. 

This might feel like too much of an extra effort on your part but try to see it positively. Come at it being excited to share progress with your leader and don’t do it begrudgingly. 

It might seem like a cliché, but when in doubt, don’t be afraid to tell your boss how you are feeling. Be honest about the situation, but do not go into the conversation with a hot head; that won’t get you anywhere good. Come into the meeting with humbleness and confidence. Yes, you know how to do your job, but there is always something to learn at every level. 

Just make sure that your ego doesn’t get the better of you. Don’t go in thinking that you are the one who always has to be right. 

If you need more tips on working with micromanagers or kicking the habit of being a helicopter boss, email me at jeff@jeffmcmanus.com or call me at 662-832-5678.

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