The Helicopter Manager

Do you hear the buzz above your cubicle or sense a shadow lengthening on your desk? It is your helicopter manager hovering around, keeping a protective, though annoying, eye on you.

The helicopter manager behaves pretty much like the helicopter parents, who are constantly monitoring and annoying, if not choking, their kids. This type of manager is not to be confused with the Seagull Manager whose actions may appear to be somewhat similar but whose motives are definitely different.

The helicopter manager is very endearing at the beginning. When you are a novice entering the corporate maze, this manager takes charge and makes you feel at home (people with helicopter parents, please excuse the pun). He points out everything from where you could sharpen your pencil to the shortest route to the restroom. He personally introduces you to people in the mail room and helps tackle the IT guys who set up your computer, no mean task even for the CEO of your company.

But soon the hospitality and the kindness start wearing you off and you start noticing the subtle ways in which your colleagues attempt to perform escape acts – pretending to be on the phone, having a coughing fit requiring a visit to the water cooler or even trying to disappear under the table or behind closets when the manager walks by. You soon find yourself joining this select group of researchers in pursuit of the utopian solution to the threat.

The helicopter manager treats everyone as though they were permanently in the kindergarten class. She not only acts on the basis that everyone and everything requires monitoring and supervision but is also prepared to co-perform every activity that each subordinate is required to complete. Here are some samples of such a manager’s behavior:

“I am just checking to see if you read the email that I sent yesterday and you acknowledged today.”

“Have you scheduled time to complete the 5-minute activity that is due six months from now – just don’t lose sight of it.”

“I liked the brief that you wrote for our press release. I just made a few corrections to two of the paragraphs and rewrote the other ten – good job!”

“I changed the variable name in your program from country-origin to country-of-origin; makes it much clearer I think.”

“I know you are working on collating the monthly sales figures for all our 500 sales reps. Can you email me the spreadsheet as each number is completed – I can then cross-check this with my own numbers that I will be independently collating in parallel. This will make the final comparison exercise that we will do together much easier. And, oh, please don’t forget to use the ‘comma’ separator for numbers greater than thousand.”

So, what is the moral of the story – the next time you hear the buzzing sound, run like hell!

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