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4 ways to be a better boss during the ‘Great Resignation’

The need to guide and motivate your employees hasn’t changed for managers during this year.

4 ways to be a better boss during the ‘Great Resignation’
[Source photo: fizkes/iStock]
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As leaders continue to navigate the Great Resignation, they are scrambling to adjust return-to-office plans, revamp benefits, and provide more flexibility to keep their talent. According to a recent Monster.com survey, 95% of employees are now considering changing jobs. While the pandemic has fundamentally changed how many of us want to work, one thing remains true: We all still want to work for a good boss.

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Employees don’t leave companies, they leave bad bosses. According to Gallup’s State of the American Manager report, one in two employees have left a company to get away from their manager. Most of us are ready to share a story of a bad boss we once had. But how many of us are willing to admit that we also have been a bad boss?

There has never been a better time to look for a new job.  During a time when it’s an employee’s market, let’s stop asking ourselves what policies and benefits our companies can be providing. Let’s start asking ourselves what we have learned from those moments when we weren’t the best bosses. Here are four ways to show up as a better boss for our teams right now.

Stop micromanaging and focus on the right details

According to a 2014 Accountemps survey, 59% of employees said they worked for a micromanager during the course of their career. A boss who is constantly tracking your movements virtually, scrutinizing every single detail, and taking away your independence can negatively impact your well-being.  For those who are being micromanaged, it can hurt your productivity, decrease your morale, and become a driver of choosing to quit.

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Most leaders will say they are not micromanagers. But ask yourself the following: Do you ask your team what coaching they need, or do you dive right in and do the work for them? Do you spend hours rewording titles and phrases that end up having the same intended impact? Do you allow them to own their projects and give them the space for problem-solving?

No one wants to work for a micromanager. So focus on the details that matter: investing time to teach specific skills they need to succeed, coaching the team to get to the ultimate goal, and helping them learn from mistakes.

Balance the negative feedback with positive feedback and recognition

Employees will resign for a number of reasons. Key drivers for employees leaving can be receiving a lack of feedback and feeling undervalued. According to a recent survey, 63% of employees feel that they don’t get enough praise. And 83% of employees think it’s better to give someone praise than a gift. Ensuring employees are valued and recognized can be a key driver of retention.

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Some leaders may think: People know they are doing a good job. I don’t need to tell them!  The more your team hears that their contributions are being valued and recognized, the more they will be willing to contribute and be committed to staying. Always be sure to balance the negative feedback with positive feedback as you coach and develop people. And instead of sending out fancy company-branded swag, consider sending texts, emails, or handwritten notes thanking them. Thank employees both privately and publicly in company meetings. Be specific on what they did well. Don’t be stingy with your praise and recognition; it’s free, and is an investment that will pay off as you build loyalty with your team.

Support your team in pursuing internal opportunities

According to Harrison Monarth, CEO of Gurumaker, a leadership development service, it’s not uncommon to encounter bosses who seem disinterested in their employees’ career growth. “Those who don’t validate their employees’ contributions, or fail to take an active interest in their development and growth, may find themselves the hot topic in a talented, departing team member’s exit interview with HR,” writes Monarth for Business Insider.

When your employees approach you about internal opportunities outside of your team, actively listen to what they are looking for next. If you are able to provide a challenging role that’s still on your team, offer them that. If not, support them in leaving your team. If you block them from finding career growth and don’t support them in making this move, they will likely grow resentful and resign.  Good bosses don’t hoard talent, don’t hold people back, and don’t worry about who will take over the work. Good bosses help them move on to what they are meant to do next.

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Be open about your struggles

Vulnerability can be seen as a weakness, particular in the corporate world. As leaders, many of us are groomed to believe we must have all the answers, we must be strong and unflappable, and we must operate at a higher level than everyone else. There is little room for error. But when we operate this way, we create impossible standards for ourselves, and our team then mirrors the behavior we model.

During this pandemic, we have no idea what kind of pain and grief people are experiencing behind their screens. As leaders, make vulnerability your superpower. Let your team in on what’s actually happening behind your perfectly curated Zoom background. Creating the space in which to share your personal struggles will help build trust with your team, and you will perform better together. The more the team trusts you, the happier they will be, and the less likely they are to resign. More than that stipend for a home office setup and reimbursement for lunches, how you show up as a boss matters to your employees. And showing up as a better boss during the Great Resignation could be the difference between someone on your team staying or leaving.


Mita Mallick is a diversity and inclusion leader. Currently, she is the head of inclusion, equity, and impact at Carta.