How to handle a helicopter boss

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As president of Human Resource Techniques, Karla Dobbeck tries to help companies fashion HR policies that enact their values. Sometimes, that starts in the interview. “One of the questions that I always want [employers] to include is something about the working environment,” she says. “Which working style do you prefer?”

But not all potential points of friction can be sussed out in the preliminary stages. Nor do many companies own up to micromanaging at the outset. If you’ve landed in a gig that has you staring up at a helicopter boss, Dobbeck has some ways to secure more autonomy at work.


• Think ahead. The best way to address the situation is by avoiding it altogether. Ask specific questions about the company’s management style before you sign on for the job.

• Plot your approach. If you’re dealing with a micromanager, odds are good that he or she is sensitive. “Approach the situation in a way that it won’t raise hostility,” she says. For example, start out by discussing what works before asking for a little breathing room. Everyone — and bosses are people too — likes praise.


• Be vague. Instead, offer specifics that relate to the ways in which their management style is hampering you. If they read over your shoulder, explain that it makes you lose concentration. If they demand to be cc’d on all emails, explain why that might make recipients uncomfortable.

• Stop the conversation. “Anything that isn’t reviewed on a regular basis is going to become a backburner item,” Dobbeck says. Once you’ve done the hard work of addressing the situation, don’t allow old habits to slide back into place.

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