Are you a Helicopter Manager? Stop Micromanaging your Remote Team | DistantJob - Remote Recruitment Agency
Managing Remote Developers / Remote Culture

Are you a Helicopter Manager? Stop Micromanaging your Remote Team

Gabriela Molina
Journalist, Director of Content at DistantJob - - - 3 min. to read

Most managers feel the constant need to over-control their employees to make sure they are working and doing what they are supposed to. These managers are known to be ”Helicopter managers”, whose primary function is to micromanage their team. And this management style not only happens in on-site offices but happens in the remote work environment as well. 

Helicopter Management Definition

Managers who fail to trust their employees and have this inner voice saying to them “you need to go and check if your employees are working” all the time are known typically as micromanagers. We’ve all experienced bosses like these, who think this style will increase productivity, but it’s the other way around.  

Besides being called micromanagers, they also are known as helicopter managers.

The helicopter manager’s concept is not initially related to the work environment but is directed to parents when handling teenagers. The metaphor of helicopter parents appeared in 1969 in the bestselling book written by Dr. Haim Giott, Between Parent & Teenager, which mentions a teen complaining that her mother hovers her like a helicopter.

Years later, the term ‘’helicopter parent’’ gained more popularity, and it was used to describe parents who pay extremely close attention to their children’s experiences and problems.

What is the helicopter view in management? A helicopter boss has the same behavior as a helicopter parent but is translated into the work environment. This means that managers who pay too much attention to every move an employee makes and can’t leave them to work on their own enter this management category.

But what’s wrong with caring too much about employees? What’s wrong with making sure the work they’re doing is okay?

When you are a virtual leader, it’s challenging to know when ‘managing’ employees and continually asking them questions might be too much, because you fear that they might feel lonely or left out. But, if you don’t measure your behavior, you might fall into the helicopter remote management, negatively affecting your remote team’s performance (and wellbeing).

Micromanaging Remote Teams: Effects

The remote workplace environment has many challenges. We’ve all read about the great benefits of working remotely and how awesome it’s to be the master and owner of your time. Or about how productive you can be when you work in the comfort of your house! So many good things, but hidden in these great benefits, are the challenges – especially when you lead a remote team.

Successful remote team leaders know that organization, communication, and passion are crucial for a company to be directed on the right path. But how to get employees working at full speed without burning them out? Without them hating the company? Culture is a way of creating this great remote environment, but remote leaders must take a step back and analyze if their leadership approach is the best one.  

Many leaders micromanage their teams without being aware of it.

Employees who have bosses with helicopter management style tend to produce less and reduce their levels of creativity. They often feel their work is not good enough because they have a boss who is always asking them questions about everything they do. But worse than that, micromanaging bosses prove that they don’t trust their employees due to their managing style.

All of these impacts significantly a remote company. When trust is not the foundation of remote teams, and bosses feel this urgent need of hoovering their employees, one of the significant effects besides burnout and high-stress levels is low employee engagement.

Gallup states that employees with low engagement, have:

  • 37% higher absenteeism
  • 18% lower productivity
  • 15% lower profitability

Economically speaking, having disengaged employees cost you 34% of their annual salary, or $3,400 for every $10,000 they make.

5 Signs that You are a Helicopter Remote Manager

5 signs that you're a helicopter manager

Taking a step back and analyzing your leadership style also means asking the right questions to yourself about how you manage your remote team. You might be in the denial phase, thinking you are the perfect manager for your remote team. Or you might not even consider questioning if your approach is the right one. 

Here are the 5 signs that you’re a helicopter boss and how to stop it:

1. You fail to delegate as a manager

Power, power, and more power for you! Why? Because no one can do a better job than you.

At least that’s why your inner voice says. Get rid of that thought and start trusting your employees capability. It all begins when you hire the right talent for your team. This is why the recruiting and hiring process needs to be reliable. You can’t go improvising and hoping that the next candidate that applies will be the right one.

Be strict with the characteristics you think your employees should have. Besides the technical abilities, also consider the importance of the skills that make remote works successful. Skills such as communication, time-management, self-reliance, etc.

When you hire talented candidates, trust is easier to build. Also, hire candidates that know more than you in certain areas. Don’t fool yourself thinking you are the mastermind behind everything. Even though you are the leader, employees may have different and creative approaches while working on a project. 

Solution: The step towards getting rid of this sign is by actually starting delegating to your employees. Not a whole project, but you can start with baby steps and delegate small tasks and then see how employees perform.

2. You feel this urge of approving everything

You think of yourself as Heimdall, the all-seeing and all-hearing sole protector of the Bifrost in Asgard. In other words, for those not familiar with Marvel, you think of yourself as the gatekeeper of all the information, projects, and everything going on in the virtual office.

Nothing can happen without your approval.

If your team is small or if you own a startup, it’s normal to micromanage at the beginning and approve the essential aspects. But if your company, or the place you work in, is big and has many employees, demanding for your approval is time-consuming and again demonstrates that you don’t trust anyone. This is why giving the power to other employees, who have proved to work hard and be skilled enough, is useful and proves you trust they will make the right decisions. 

3. You need to be on top of every project 

Being a leader requires making sure projects are moving in the right direction. If you don’t care and let employees do whatever they want, this leads to terrible consequences. But being on top of every detail, asking and demanding updates and reports, makes employees overwhelmed and stressed.

As humans, we are all different, we work at a different pace, and overall have unique approaches to solving things. If your employees are caffeine-fueled night owls, don’t expect them to work at the same rhythm at 6 am, because you are a morning person. Understand their schedules and their way of handling work, instead of continually asking for updates, set up a weekly meeting to discuss how things are going.

Solution: Use project management tools such as Trello or Basecamp that implicitly let you know how long it takes for projects to finish or if someone is stuck with certain tasks.

4. You are never satisfied

Nothing your employees do is good enough. You feel they always lack something, and you have this need to always correct them.

When employees make a task poorly, it’s your job as their manager to make them aware of this. But most of the times, they do a great job, and if you still feel it needs more work it’s time to stop and answer this question:

  • Is the task/project/assignment fulfilling its purpose?

If the answer is yes, stop correcting your employees and move on with the next project.

5.   Meeting monologues

Are you the monologue expert in your Zoom calls? You talk and talk while your team members stare at you? If this happens is time for you to consider changing your virtual meeting structure.

Virtual meetings have the aim of helping teams connect and be on the same page. If they are working on projects, it’s the perfect space to discuss aspects to improve or just define the projects’ structure. But being the only one that talks is not only unproductive but also discourages employees from speaking up.

Solution: A strategy for changing this is beginning meetings with ice breaker questions such as:

  • How is everyone doing?
  • What do you prefer American Dad or The Simpsons? (for example)

Not Sure How to Manage Your Remote Team?

Managing a remote team is not something you learn overnight. It requires many different skills, tools, and the right strategies. 

As a remote recruitment agency, we know many companies struggle to find the talent they want. But also struggle to manage their remote teams, especially during these times of uncertainty. If you need help, we are here to guide you in hiring the right person for your team and to manage it remotely. Contact us today!

Gabriela Molina

Gabriela Molina, the Executive Editor at DistantJob and Director of Content at ThinkRemote, combines her experience as a former freelance journalist with deep insights into remote work, technology, and recruitment best practices. Her diverse journalistic background covers a wide array of topics, positioning her as a knowledgeable voice in the tech and remote work sectors. Featured on platforms like Datasciencentral and Simpleprogrammer, Gabriela's expertise extends to shaping narratives around remote workforce strategies, making her contributions to DistantJob invaluable for those navigating the remote tech hiring landscape

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