What To Do When The Boss – Hovers Over You?

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This bad boss is sometimes known as the “helicopter boss”.  They seem to have nothing better to do than to lurk over your shoulder while you’re trying to get your work done.  To add insult to this, they may nit-pick and even rework what you’ve done.  It leaves you wondering why they hired you in the first place, if they can spend so much time hovering over your job rather than doing their own.

There are a number of potential causes for this:

     They are too controlling.  They are the only one who can truly get it right or they must see the work get done a certain way (at least they think so.)

     They really might not have enough of their own work do.

     They think that hovering is equal to managing and don’t really know or understand what they should be doing.

     You really might warrant this, because you aren’t performing up to standards or you do things that undermine confidence in your work (like you continuously ask to be double-checked.)

You do need to understand the reason, or combination of reasons, for their over-involvement in your work.  Even if they are killing time just chatting you up, it is still impacting your ability to get your job done in a timely manner.  Let’s look at some potential actions you can take, once you’ve identified the cause of their behavior:

     If they’re controlling.   Ask for training and performance expectations.  Once you’ve been adequately trained, keep track of your performance and report it to your boss.  After enough time of seeing that you are meeting their standards, they will most likely back off.  If they are reworking your work, ask for feedback on how to improve so they don’t have to take their time redoing your work.

     If they’re controlling and training and performance hasn’t caused them to back off.   Have a discussion.  You don’t want this to be a defensive conversation, but a problem solving one.  You can open the conversation with something like, “I’ve noticed that you have a strong need to be involved with the work I’m performing.  Since I’m meeting the performance expectations, I thought I would find out if there is anything you might need from me that I’m not doing that will make you more comfortable with what I’m doing?  I just want us to be efficient.”  You want to take ownership for giving the boss what they need.

     They don’t have enough work of their own.  Have you heard of “managing up”?  You can make suggestions or come up with ideas for things that seem appropriate for them to do.  If they like the idea, you can always ask “Do you want to run with this or do you want me to?”  Certainly, they might give it to you, but chances are they’re looking for something to fill their time.  You also need to manage your time.  If they are chatting you up due to boredom, return the chat for a short time and then make a brief statement like, “I need to get back to work”.  Then turn yourself to the task at hand.  Remain friendly.

     If they think this is what a manager does.   When they approach you, ask if you can help them.  Once the request is fulfilled, turn back to your work and ignore them.  You will have to get used to their presence and still get your work done.

     If you aren’t performing .  Consider this the price you pay to get back on track.  Make sure you understand how to perform the work and what the expectations are.  It’s not fun having the bad boss in your sandbox, but until you get your performance up to standards, you will see them far more than you like. 

A helicopter boss isn’t the worst person in the world to work for, but they are annoying and sometimes very ego deflating, especially if they constantly question your work.  Taking the appropriate action can help both of you.

Looking to get happy in the job you’re in? Take this quiz to find out: http://www.nextchapternewlife.com/quizzes/TenWaystoGetMoreFromJob.pdf  From Dorothy Tannahill-Moran at http://www.nextchapternewlife.com

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About Dorothy Tannahill Moran

Dorothy Tannahill Moran is the president of Next Chapter New Life, a company that specializes in Career Advice and Coaching. Dorothy is also a member of Career Studio. Dorothy has worked with technology professionals, middle and executive management to grow their career and realize their own potential.

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