Date ArticleType
3/12/2019 Insights

What's Your Management Style? Parenting Styles Applied to Workplace Management

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What's Your Management Style? Parenting Styles Applied to Workplace Management

Whether or not you have little ones of your own, you’re probably familiar with the concept of different parenting styles. While you do not manage children in your workplace (we hope – if you are managing children please call CEDR immediately for a checkup on your child labor laws), we know the workplace dynamic can often feel a little bit, shall we say, familial.

As with any family, knowing your role in the family dynamic is essential to getting along. Even so, many managers and owners we speak with have little to no awareness of their own managerial style.

We’ve found that it can be helpful to think about management styles the same way that we talk about parenting styles, though a parent/manager may not have the same style in both camps. And, no, CEDR is not branching off into offering parenting advice – we just thought AADOM’s readers might find value in this novel way of thinking about their go-to method of management.

Do you know your management style? Walk with us through some common parenting styles as we apply them to the workplace.

Helicopter Management 

Made famous by the increase in hovering and over-involved parents in the 1990’s and early 2000’s, helicopter managers can seem omnipresent. A large criticism of this style is that those under its rule never have enough freedom to learn from their own mistakes. “Don’t climb up there, you might fall down!” “Don’t process those reports that way, they won’t be right!”

If Jimmy never learns what a true “fall” feels like, he can never learn how high is too high to climb. His growth and development may be inhibited. Similarly, employees whose tasks are too closely managed may never have the opportunity to learn from their mistakes.

If you tend toward a helicopter mentality, you may already have thought of the counterargument here: if you let Jimmy climb too high, he may come home with a concussion. Similarly, giving employees too much freedom to fail may result in harmful consequences to your business.

How to find balance:

If you find yourself hovering, try a different approach next time you are tempted to step in.

Try empowering your employees to exercise self-service as a first step toward fostering a basic level of independence (software like CEDR’s HR Vault makes this easy). Then look to seize an opportunity where the employee is safe to fail – maybe allowing for self-guidance on a daily report that can be easily corrected the next day, for example.

You can also consider letting your employees try something for the first time on their own with a longtime trusted patient who is unlikely to leave should something go wrong, rather than with a first-time patient.

If you can find time to give your employees a little breathing room, you may see healthy growth.

Lawnmower Management

The newest fad in parenting social science literature – lawnmower parenting – is a methodology in which the parent is said to clear all obstacles out of the way before their children have the chance to encounter them. This style is criticized for stunting critical thinking skills and resilience in the face of adversity.

In the workplace, it can be easy to simply move an obstacle for an employee rather than asking them to work their way through it. In fact, that option often takes less time and effort on your end!

In response to a simple question, answering, “Here, I’ll just look it up for you” is sometimes easier than asking the person to try it themselves first, or teaching them how to do it.

If you lean toward a lawnmower mentality, you may often feel burned-out or like you are “doing it all.” You may also feel as though you have few individuals you can trust with certain tasks in the workplace. Finding a way to spread skill sets around, rather than solving all of the issues yourself, can serve your whole team well.

How to find balance:

Next time an employee presents you with an obstacle, ask them what steps they have taken on their end to try to solve it first and provide them with tools that make self-service easy.

Rather than solve the issue for them, offer ideas or suggestions as to where they could look next, but stop short of telling them exactly what to do. This may take longer at first, but you should start to see employees gaining more autonomy over time.

Free-Range Management

Free-range parenting is often portrayed in the media as being, well, a lack of parenting. The 1950’s style is marked by children roaming free. This parenting style is sometimes criticized for its overall lack of oversight and responsibility. “Be back in time for dinner!” and, “Yes, you can borrow the knife set, just bring it back. OK?”

This management style can show up in the workplace as well. With so many pressing daily tasks, it can be tempting as an owner or manager to take a “be-back-in-time-for-dinner” mentality.

However, that mentality can cause harm to both employees and your business. Without some accountability, it’s easy for an owner or manager to look back over a period of time and think, “What happened? When did everyone start arriving to work whenever they felt like it?”

How to find balance:

Find a way to check in on the managerial challenges in your office periodically without overwhelming yourself.

If clock-in time is an issue, you don’t have to check everyone’s timecard every day. But you could set aside time to check on it once a month in order to address issues before they balloon. A robust timekeeping tool like the one provided in CEDR’s HR Vault can make it possible to check on things like this in seconds, or even allow you to get email notifications when an employee clocks in late or punches out early.

Explore creative solutions for monitoring. Technology like the HR Vault can be powerful when it comes to helping manage things like scheduling and recordkeeping. Professional services like CEDR’s Solution Center can also help you keep tabs on things without forcing you to put your proverbial cocktail down forever.

Tiger Management

The tiger parenting style is sometimes summarized as “all work and no play.” The associated “no-rest-for-the-weary” mentality is criticized for being overly harsh or contributing to exhaustion.

This style seeps its way into the workplace occasionally, often times when owners and managers are truly passionate about their work and want to devote all of their time and energy to their business, then expecting others to do the same.

While there is certainly nothing wrong with expecting your team to work hard, if you are working them to the point of exhaustion, this can create tension on the team. It can also contribute to overall employee dissatisfaction, burnout, and high turnover.

How to find balance:

Continue to expect your team to work hard and be accountable for their performance while at the office, but steer them toward finding methods of lessening the load that work for your business, too. 
Start with policies that help your employees understand your expectations but also allow them to maintain a healthy work-life balance. If you see your team looking ragged, look for ways to create space or efficiency in the workload rather than blindly soldiering through. Can work be organized differently to spread things more evenly on the team? Could a small adjustment make a big difference for your employees’ wellbeing?

Maybe you always work long hours on Wednesdays, but 80 percent of the time your last patient of the day cancels on Wednesday night. There’s a cost-benefit analysis to be done there: does it cost you more to have high staff turnover, or to schedule one less appointment on a Wednesday night?

Working to strike a balance between lofty business goals and employee satisfaction can help improve your workflow, improve levels of employee satisfaction, and might even save you money in the long run.

We all have a management style, whether we know it or not. Even if your specific style is not on this list, it probably exists somewhere in the gray area between two or more of the styles presented here. Work to identify it, and be honest with yourself about its benefits and drawbacks.

If you can find balance in your own leadership, you will be rewarded with greater balance on your team.


Grace has been an attorney with CEDR Solutions for over four years. She has helped CEDR members with every type of HR and employment law issue as a Solution Center Advisor, and more recently has moved into the role of Compliance Officer, focusing on legal research and internal compliance.
Grace graduated cum laude from Georgia State University's School of Law. Prior to attending law school, Grace received her paralegal certificate from Emory University and worked as a paralegal for a large law firm in Atlanta, GA. She currently lives in Hershey, PA with her husband, two children, and beloved dog, Kermit.