Do you think taking lots of sick days, coming to work dressed up and then going to a “doctor’s appointment,” or leaving on the dot of 5:00 are warning signs an employee is about to quit? Then you could be missing subtler, more serious signs.
A study by Utah State University associate professor Tim Gardner identified 10 behaviors employees who are planning to quit typically display:
- They offered fewer suggestions in meetings.
- They became reluctant to commit to long-term projects.
- They became quieter and more reserved.
- They became less interested in advancing in their jobs.
- They were less interested in pleasing the boss.
- They avoided interacting socially with their boss or other managers.
- They were less likely to suggest new ideas or innovative approaches.
- They started doing the bare minimum at work and stopped going above and beyond the call of duty.
- They became less interested in workplace training and development programs.
- Their productivity at work declined.
According to Gardner, if an employee displays at least six of these behaviors, he can predict with 80 percent accuracy that the person is about to quit.
What can you do if you spot these behaviors in a key employee? Since the behaviors typically arise one to two months before quitting, there’s not much time to change the employee’s mind—so you need to be proactive.
As a busy boss, it’s easy to get wrapped up in your own work and not engage with your employees much. Walk around, talk to your team every day and really listen—not just to what they say, but also to their body language and how they act. Is a formerly chatty employee now staring at her computer every time you come by? Does a formerly jovial employee no longer look you in the eye?
If you suspect a key employee is ready to jump ship, call the person in for an honest talk. If they are considering leaving but haven’t yet made a firm decision, what can you offer that would make them reconsider? Perhaps employees feel their ideas aren’t taken seriously, that there’s no room for advancement or not enough workplace training. Can you address these issues?
If the employee has already accepted or is about to accept a job offer, you face a bigger challenge—but you may still be able to keep the person on board by making a counteroffer or addressing his or her concerns.
If the employee does leave, conduct an exit interview to probe what prompted the decision. It’s likely this employee isn’t the only one bothered by the same issues, and by becoming more aware, you can remedy the problem before other employees leave, too.