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10 Signs Your Employee is Planning to Quit

Staff turnover – though unavoidable – is tumultuous.  You may find yourself short staffed, may struggle to find a good replacement, and your customer service may even take a temporary hit.  Though you may not be thrilled about it, knowing if an employee is thinking about leaving can give you enough time to prepare and lessen the blow. 

A note about these signs:  None of these behaviors is a sure sign of imminent departure. 

The key is to watch for changes in behavior that indicate an employee is about to abandon ship. 

Here are the warning signs to watch for if an employee is thinking of leaving:

1. You’ve got a bad feeling.  Let your instincts guide you.  If you think an employee is considering leaving, chances are good you’re right.  You don’t necessarily need to act on a vague feeling, but you should pay closer attention and look for other signs.

2. Apathy.  If a rockstar go-getter is suddenly devoid of motivation, something’s wrong.  Watch out for employees who no longer seem to care about your company and its customers.

3. Avoidance.  If you notice an employee who seems to want to be anywhere you’re not, it could be because they’re trying to hide their intentions from you.  When an employee you used to have a great relationship with begins to put distance between you, there’s probably a reason.

4. Change in communication style.  Maybe your confrontational employee stops putting up a fight, or perhaps a quiet employee begins causing trouble.  Whatever the change, a shift in the way employees express themselves can indicate they’re considering leaving.

5. Different coworker dynamics.  Take note of changes in workplace rituals.  Is one employee no longer interested in sharing lunch breaks with other staff?  Do you find a formerly social employee offering excuses not to hang out after work like they used to?  Employees who are thinking about leaving may feel uncomfortable keeping their secret from a close-knit group.

6. Changes in appearance.  If you notice a new hair style and new wardrobe, it could indicate an employee is freshening up for interviews.  Of course not all changes in appearance mean trouble, but if you notice a spruced up employee who also exhibits other signs of leaving, be on your guard.

7. Extra time off.  If you notice a sudden increase in “sick days” or “personal time,” it could mean your employee is out interviewing for a new job.

8. Lack of interest in long-term projects.  When you discover an employee who withdraws from discussions related to future work, it might be because their future lies elsewhere.

9. Wrapping up loose ends.  Most employees at well-run companies (like yours, right?) don’t want to leave a mess behind.  An employee who’s unexpectedly putting finishing touches on projects might be working toward leaving on a good note.

10. Lots of medical or dental procedures.  Since a number of companies have waiting periods before health benefits kick in, some employees try to make the most of their benefits while they can.

Again, none of these behaviors in isolation may mean much.  But looking for a number of changes in employees’ behavior, relationships, and work ethic can tip you off to an upcoming resignation.  Knowing it’s coming gives you time to prepare a counteroffer or a new employee search.

About the author

Mike Michalowicz (pronounced mi-KAL-o-wits) started his first business at the age of 24, moving his young family to the only safe place he could afford – a retirement building. With no experience, no contacts and no savings he systematically bootstrapped a multi-million dollar business. Then he did it again. And again. Now he is doing it for other entrepreneurs. Mike is the CEO of Provendus Group, a consulting firm that ignites explosive growth in companies that have plateaued; is a former small business columnist for The Wall Street Journal; is MSNBC’s business make-over expert; is a keynote speaker on entrepreneurship; and is the author of the cult classic book, The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur. His newest book, The Pumpkin Plan has already been called “the next E-myth!”