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Micromanaging Could Be Your Biggest Retention Problem

Nearly three out of four workers say micromanaging bosses raise the biggest red flag about a workplace; almost half, 46%, say they’d leave a job because of it, according to a survey last month by

“As if managers don’t already have enough on their shoulders, the survey is a reminder of what HR pros have long recognized: Bad bosses can drive good workers away,” writes HR Dive Contributor Laurel Kalser.

Austin-based coaching platform BetterUp offers several resources pinpointing how to recognize micromanaging and how to stop it, whether it’s something you’re witnessing among others in your organization or perhaps even in your own behavior.

“When you operate in a fast-paced, competitive environment, ensuring your team produces high-quality work that meets expectations and deadlines is a big responsibility…But sometimes, support and guidance go too far,” explains BetterUp’s Allaya Cooks-Campbell. “Dealing with a micromanaging boss is one of the top three reasons people quit. So, if you think you might be an intrusive manager, it’s time to address this behavior.”

Cooks-Campbell identifies several micromanaging warning signs to watch out for, including perfectionism, resistance to delegating, strict approval processes, overworking, an obsession over minor details, and the tendency to take over a project at the first sign of trouble. She points out that employee feedback can help you identify whether micromanaging is a problem among your ranks. We couldn’t agree more, which is why our advisory services offer help in this area.  

“[A] coach can help your executive team assess their own stress levels and responses and evaluate the feedback loop that exists—or is needed—to allow employees and managers to anonymously report their satisfaction and wellbeing. A roadmap should take shape; one that starts with enhancing executive EQ [emotional intelligence] and ends with improved wellbeing for everyone within the organization,” we explain in our post about C-suite burnout, which can certainly apply in this case. 

“Many of these managers aren’t bad bosses, they’re just drowning in one way or another. Think of it as the manager needing to ‘put their oxygen mask on first’ before they can help others,” we state. Cooks-Campbell offers additional remedies for micromanagers, including ways to build a trusting environment, letting go of perfectionism, control, and other micromanaging quirks, and hiring the right people.

Erin Eatough, PhD, an occupational health psychologist with BetterUp offers another comprehensive guide to recognizing and handling micromanaging traits in others. Eatough addresses an important factor when it comes to micromanaging bosses: how remote work plays a part. Years of pandemic-forced remote work were hard for micromanagers. Some learned to adapt and trust, while others doubled down on micromanaging in unhealthy ways. Is it any wonder that “micromanaging fears” are one of the top reasons workers don’t want to return to pre-pandemic office life? It’s a great time to resist falling into old habits as we steadily return to face-to-face work. 

“Insecurity, a lack of trust, and fear are the most common driving factors behind micromanagement. None of these issues can be rectified overnight. But with clear, honest communication, they can be alleviated,” Eatough states. Measure the impact micromanaging has on your retention efforts before you shrug it off. It might be making a more significant difference than you think.