We all know helicopter parents, who are always hovering overhead to make sure that their children are thriving. In one survey of 725 employers hiring recent college graduates, more than 25% had been contacted directly by applicants’ parents or received applicants’ resumes from parents; some even had parents show up at interviews with their children, negotiate the terms of their job offers, and ask for a raise or promotion.
In the workplace, many leaders become helicopter managers, hovering over their direct reports in a well-intentioned but ill-fated attempt to provide support. These are givers gone awry—people so desperate to help others that they develop a white knight complex, and end up causing harm instead. Studies suggest that helicopter managers prevent recipients from becoming independent and competent, disrupting their learning and confidence for future tasks. In focusing on the short-term benefits of helping, helicopter managers overlook the long-term costs.
To grow, people need to be challenged. Research shows that challenges are important predictors of learning and development on the job. Evidence reveals that people achieve higher performance when they are given difficult goals. Difficult goals motivate people to work harder and smarter, develop their knowledge and skills, and test out different task strategies, all of which facilitate effectiveness and growth.
Challenge your leaders to avoid the tendency to be a helicopter manager, and your organization will be more successful.