4 Signs That Your Workplace Millennials Are Turning You Into a Helicopter Boss
If you have millennial-age children, watch out. They may be turning you into a helicopter boss at home. But, watch out for another reason: How you are at home spills over to how you are at work.
If you are “helicoptering” at home -- and it’s hard not to these days -- you are probably doing it at work, too. Even if you cringe at the thought of being labeled a micromanager, you may be hovering over your employees, and not even realize it.
Here are four signs you’re a helicopter boss.
1. You monitor your employees’ activities by putting security on their computers and GPS trackers on their phones.
Your kids live on social media. You install security blockers to stop them from running into the bad guys and to keep track of how much time they waste on social media instead of more educational pursuits.
Then you go to work and you see one of your employees on Facebook. Fear creeps over you. “How much time are my employees wasting on social media?” you think to yourself as you pick up the phone to call IT. Things get worse from there. You can’t find one of your employees and wonder if he or she is sneaking off to do something personal.
You’ve got GPS trackers on your kids’ phones; so, you ask yourself, why not install them on employees’ phones, too?
2. You correct their work and do their projects for them.
After years of correcting your kids’ homework, you can’t turn that instinct off. You are compelled to check your employees’ emails before they send them out and their PowerPoint slides before they present at meetings. Not only do you correct mistakes, you also make improvements. When your employees come to you with a plan, they find you’ve already done the project.
But, take note: The message you are sending to your employees is that no matter what they do, you’ll change it, so why should they even try?
Related: The 3-Step Cure for Micromanagement
3. You go to your employees’ meetings to champion them (and be there in case they need you).
Your kids want you to watch every one of their games, performances and competitions.They become dependent on you and look over at you for an encouraging smile before they swing the bat.You want to be there to support them and stand up for them in case the umpire makes a bad call.
Change the setting to work: Your employees need you just as much, or at least you think they do.They turn to you for approval before making pronouncements and decisions. It’s not that they can’t do it on their own. It’s that you’re in the room watching over them, and they defer to you because you’re the boss.
Try letting them meet without you and see what they come up with on their own.
4. You’re making decisions for your employees that they could be making on their own.
At home: “Should I wear this shirt or that one?”
At work: “Should I use this font or that one?”
If you answer these questions, they’ll keep coming back to you with more equally microscopic decisions. Shouldn’t they be coming to you for bigger things?
Here are three things you can do to avoid the trap of being a helicopter boss.
1. Give your employees responsibility and hold them accountable
Instead of hovering over your employees, build a relationship of trust and accountability. You can do this by giving your staff responsibility and clear expectations. Address the “5 Ws” -- who, what, where, when, and why -- when you assign a task. When does this need to be done? What exactly do you expect the result to look like? Why is it important to do this task?
You can also guide them on the “how” but only loosely. They need challenges they can figure out on their own.
2. Be a coach, not a gatekeeper.
Help your employees develop. Don’t hinder them by doing things for them. Ask them the questions they need to ask themselves, to effectively plan their work. What are the potential barriers and how will you handle them? What are the possible outcomes? What information do you need to know to move forward?
Who can you get to help you? What resources do you need? How long will it take?
3. Let your employees make mistakes and learn from them.
Letting go means accepting that someone else’s work may not be as good as yours, but it’s still good enough. Maybe, too, the work is perfectly good, but just not the way you’d do it. That’s okay, too. And maybe you know that the end result will be problemmatic, but one that you and your company can live with. Whatever the scenario, a hands-off approach is worth the lesson it gives your employees.
That’s the moment when you can give those young staffers your best reassuring smile and help them learn -- something all millenials need to do.
Related: When It's Appropriate to Micromanage
Joanie B. Connell, Ph.D. is the founder of Flexible Work Solutions, a nationally recognized consulting firm that specializes in leadership assessment, development, and retention for all levels–executives, professionals, early career, and youth. Dr. Connell is the author of “Flying Without a Helicopter: How to Prepare Young People for Work and Life,” forecasted for release in late 2014.