"My key finding was a subtle but important shift in how employees expected their managers to work with them," said Krishnamoorthy. "They wanted their managers to be present, hands-on, and operationally vigilant without being intrusive."
So employees want their bosses to be hovering over them, but as unobtrusively as possible? Now there's a balancing act that doesn't come naturally, especially to bosses who are used to giving orders and expressing themselves in a self-empoweringly judgey way.
And now we come to the part where the modern, remote boss-employee relationship really does sound like the couple giving each other space.
"Employees don't want their managers to micromanage them; they want their managers to micro-understand their work," said Krishnamoorthy.
It's fascinating how remote work -- and the concomitant pandemic -- has engendered a renewed consideration of the human spirit.
We talk more freely about mental health issues. And now, it seems, we want more of a meaningful human relationship with our bosses.
Perhaps it's a yearning that's always existed. Perhaps the changing nature of business -- and the sudden onrush of full employment -- has given employees permission to demand more.
Krishnamoorthy offers an uplifting sentence to describe the new dynamic. It's one that might serve as a mantra for all those who still believe they can be excellent managers.
He says: "Micro-understanding is about trusting, but making sure there are no unanticipated bumps; delegating, but being there to keep workers from stumbling; and being flexible, but always heeding the warning signs."
In essence, then, a fine manager has to be a finely tuned human.
Your remote employees are people. They want to be trusted, but they also want to be helped. They want to feel less constricted, but they still want to be managed.
And what do managers get in return? How about respect?
"My study shows that employees began to appreciate the role of the manager more while working from home full-time in 2020," said Krishnamoorthy. "Having a manager was helpful, provided the managers shifted from managing time, activity, or physical presence to managing results and outcomes."
So there, managers. You have your homework. They want you to care more, spy less, and flex your muscles even less than that. They want you to pay attention to what they do and how effectively they contribute.