Last year, I conducted a workplace survey and asked the question, "What is the one mistake leaders make more frequently than others?"

Before clicking on the link, can you guess what the top answer was? It's the basis for the rest of this article and the sentiment of hundreds of responses I received.

Yep, you guessed it. The 1 thing that really bad bosses do that drive employees away?


Why Does It Strike a Chord with So Many Employees?

"Oh, I just love how my boss dominates all our decisions, pushes us around, and motivates us with fear," said no employee ever.

In fact, two responses I received often--"leading by fear" and "controlling people and processes," topped the list as the No.1 reason why employees leave. "Lacking vision" was a close third. These are micro-management behaviors that strip a team's motivation and creativity.

Micro-managers operate their way because it's about power, and power is about control; don't let them fool you by making you believe it's to keep from things going south, or because they want to ensure things are done "the right way."

3 Things Micro-managers Should Stop Doing

Micro-managers are not evil people; they're human like all of us--fathers, husbands, and hard-working people. What they lack is the conscious day-to-day understanding of what it takes to motivate people intrinsically. They live in another paradigm altogether.

The good news with all paradigms is that you can shift! Here's how:

1. Stop Hoarding Information

Here's the real reason leaders hoard and withhold information: it's about power and control. And control is one of the most effective ways to kill trust. A leader hoarding information to control his environment and the people in it cannot be trusted.

The reverse of this is a leader who acts responsibly by sharing information and being transparent with his team.

Warren Bennis, in Transparency: Creating a Culture of Candor, cites a 2005 study finding that a group of 27 U.S. companies noted as "most transparent" beat the S&P 500 by 11.3 percent. This takes the rarefied air of vulnerability--a leadership game changer--as I have written about in the past.

2. Stop Getting the Last Word

A manager who is always right, and has the final say on everything is a person exhibiting low emotional intelligence. When this leader doesn't solicit the opinions of others, get buy-in from team members (especially when change is on the horizon, because change is often scary), trust erodes and morale goes in the tank.

So we're talking about a leader that has to stop getting the last word, a leader that allows for others to give input to important initiatives, and a leader that will first listen receptively, with the needs of others in mind.

3. Stop Being the Invisible Manager

This manager is missing in action, or if he's actually around, he's in his cave (a.k.a. his office) with the door shut.

He avoids personal interaction, especially when things are going south. When you need his input or direction, he conveniently has a meeting to attend at that time.

He will manage by e-mail and text, and avoids communicating in person for fear of facing conflict (which, if he knew better and faced with courage, would eliminate most of it!).

He's only interested in good news, because he's not able to handle anything more. Got a problem? Talk to someone else.

Final Thoughts

If you want the label of "really bad boss," get cranking on this list. It'll get you there faster than you can say "resignation."

If you're already there, there's hope. Your first order of priority should be to eliminate these things, obviously. And when you do, it'll open up all kinds of doors for you, and keep your best people from leaving you.

And it all starts with looking within yourself first, having good self-awareness to define your present reality, and then figure out what positive leadership behaviors to learn and adapt.