Spot the Warning Signs an Employee Is About to Quit
If you’re searching for a new job and don’t want your employer to know you’re looking, discretion is the key. That means not leaving clues around your desk (or in the copy machine) and not tweeting about the job search. It may also mean not posting your resume on job sites and informing prospective employers that you’re submitting your resume confidentially.
But what about the other side of the situation? If you’re a manager who doesn’t want to lose key people, how can you detect that they’re looking elsewhere? It may be a clue that they’re contemplating moving on if they seem less engaged in their job, contribute less at meetings, seem more reserved, and overall do and say less than they used to. Of course, these could be clues to something else altogether, such as a problem at home, a medical issue, or an overload of stifling work demands.
Nevertheless, some signs are pretty good clues that an employee is job hunting, such as a desk that’s less cluttered, a change in attire, and more time away from the office than is the norm. An employee who takes sick days may actually be sick. Still, if that employee has rarely taken sick days in the past, something is going on, even if not a job search.
A change in behavior from what’s typical also may be a sign that the employee is halfway out the door. That change can go in either direction: The person may be more vocal than usual, or display the I-don’t-care attitude of someone who has already checked out. Because changes in behavior can mean so many things, an astute manager won’t wait for them to become excessive or prolonged to address them.
A few weeks ago, I met a man who retired after 41 years with the same company. That’s mighty rare; most people change jobs much more often than that. But it’s generally believed that people leave managers, not companies. The signs of a looming employee departure may be there—if you’re paying attention. As Yogi Berra famously put it, you can observe a lot by just watching.