4 Signs You're a Helicopter Coworker — and How to Stop

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Leah Thomas
Leah Thomas866
July 13, 2024 at 12:41PM UTC

Everyone has heard of helicopter parenting, but have you heard of helicopter co-working? Even if you haven’t heard of it, but you’ve definitely experienced it. We’ve all had that one coworker who seemed a little too into your work. Who reveled at asking what you did today, or if you needed help with this or that. It’s easy to get caught up in caring for your company and wanting it to succeed, but there’s a fine line between promoting success and overstepping your boundaries. 

If you think you may be that coworker, we’re here to help you identify whether or not you’re driving your colleagues a bit insane. And if it turns out you are a helicopter, we have some advice on how to stop. 

1. Warning Sign: You refuse to let people do their own work.

Aaron Haynes, an entrepreneur and digital marketer, wrote about helicopter behavior in the workplace for Entrepreneur, saying that if you feel as though you are busier than your professional counterparts who have similar responsibilities, it could be because you’re too busy completing both your tasks and other employees’ tasks. Trust in the people your company hired and allow them to do their own work. 

2. Warning Sign: Your coworkers are getting upset with your requests.

Just as children don’t enjoy helicopter parenting, employees do not enjoy helicopter coworking. When you are constantly watching a peer over her shoulder or asking for status updates every hour or critiquing her every move, she is likely to get frustrated. Your coworkers want to feel as though you believe in them — and if you don’t, they will lose morale, potentially leading to a high turnover rate in your office.

3. Warning Sign: You think most of your coworkers are under-performers.

Are your coworkers under-performing, or are you setting your standards too high? You might feel your coworkers aren’t doing the best job because you aren’t giving them the chance to. If you are helicoptering  all over your office, your fellow employees are less likely to perform to their best ability. 

4. Warning Sign: You believe that you and only you have the best approach to most tasks.

According to Haynes, assuming you are the best shows you believe your peers to be inferior. By helicoptering them, you’ll never allow them the chance to make necessary mistakes in order to learn from them and develop their own solution to each issue. Your behavior could also be causing self-doubt among your team.

Muriel Maignan Wilkins, co-founder and managing partner of executive coaching and leadership firm Paravis Partners, gave her advice on how to stop helicopter coworking for Harvard Business Review.

1. Tip: Wilkins put it best when she said: “Get over yourself.”

Stop trying to rationalize why you need to be a helicopter coworker to your peers. And start reminding yourself why you shouldn’t be engaging in this workplace  behavior.

2. Tip: Start little and work your way up.

Make a list of the tasks you should be allowing other employees to complete, in order of small, menial tasks to large, influential ones. Begin by letting go of the smaller tasks — allow yourself to get comfortable losing some control.

3. Tip: Realize that you can share an end-goal expectation without explaining how to get there.

You want to remain on the same page as your coworkers. Feel free to give small advice or discuss the ultimate goal for a specific project, but allow them to figure out how to get there on their own.

More bad habits to break: 

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