7 Warning Signs that Your Employees are About to Quit

Posted on May 28th, 2013
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Let’s face it – the hiring process can be a nightmare.  Sorting the wheat from the chaff is an incredibly time-consuming task and there’s no guarantee that you won’t wind up getting burned after hiring a new employee.  And that’s not even taking into account the financial impact of turnover and training costs!

The bottom line is that you should try to keep good employees whenever you can.  But sometimes, for various reasons, those good employees quit.  If you aren’t paying attention, a situation like that can catch you unaware and leave you in a very tight spot.  If you know the warning signs to look for, you can spot employees who are thinking about quitting before they’ve even made up their minds.

Seven Signs Employees are Headed Out the Door

Personal Crisis/Professional Epiphany

Employees have personal lives too – which is something no boss should ever forget.  It’s the balance of work and home life that keeps people on an even keel and – generally – happy in their work.  If something happens in one aspect of their lives, chances are good it’s going to affect the other.

For instance, if an employee is going through a divorce, has recently lost a loved one or is suffering a health-related crisis, these events can often cause a dramatic re-thinking of priorities.  Employees may begin to look elsewhere, thinking that finding greener grass in their work lives with help them feel better in their personal lives.

You can spot this sort of life-altering change by engaging on a real, personal level with your employees.  Ask them how they are doing, take an interest in their families and genuinely empathize with them in their times of need.

If you’d like to keep these employees, try giving them some time off or even a lightened workload for a short period.  If they have the opportunity to de-stress and take care of what’s happening in their lives off the clock, chances are they’ll be less prone to make rash decisions about their careers.

Jealousy Rears Its Head

Go-getters are often a company’s lifeblood.  Unlike “Yes” men and women, they actually possess the drive and skills that your business can put to good use.  However, these same employees often suffer from jealousy, especially if they get passed over for promotion in favor of others.  Their dedication to their jobs (or their careers) is often – at least partially – to blame for their feelings of envy and anger, as they’ve sacrificed their time to their jobs and feel entitled to promotions.

Unfortunately, their feelings don’t really have any correlation to what’s best for the company.  You have to promote on skill and intuition alone – not on tenure or personal opinion.

Jealousy can manifest itself in many ways, but most often, angered employees will speak out (either within earshot or to other employees) about their hurt feelings.  They want to feel valued and misperceive your action as an intentional slight.  Address the problem quickly by reassuring these employees that their work is indeed valued and – if possible – invest in their skills by offering additional training.

Dressing Up and Cheating on You

If your employee is actively engaged in job seeking, they’re likely using company time to do it.  That means that they may be making calls to competitors on company time, searching the internet for job postings or even interviewing on their lunch hour or break periods.  If you notice your employee is dressing up or spending an inordinate amount of time on the phone or offsite, come right out and ask if they’re looking elsewhere.

Ask them why they are looking elsewhere and actually listen to their responses.  If it’s the company atmosphere they no longer like, suggest possible changes.  If they’re looking for personal advancement, suggest in-house opportunities in order to retain these employees.

Blowing through Personal Time

If your employee is using an excessive amount of sick, vacation or personal time at the beginning of the year (or yearly cycle), there’s a good chance they’re doing so to get rid of it before they quit.  These days don’t come cheap and using them all at once doesn’t really make any sense – unless they have a good reason.

Often, these employees are already out the door in their own minds, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try and persuade them to stay.  Just don’t be surprised if they elect not to.

They Leave On Time

Leaving on time may seem like a good thing, but it’s not always.  If your employees can’t really stand their jobs, they’re not going to hang around.  In these instances, rushing out the door at quitting time (or sometimes, just before) can often be the first sign that your employees are slowly giving up on the company, their jobs and their fellow employees.  The balance between work and personal life is beginning to tip.

If you spot this behavior and do nothing about it, it will likely progress into other behaviors such as acting out, speaking out or “giving up.”  However, by engaging with the employee and asking for input, you may be able to figure out a way to change their minds.

Disengaged Attitude/Work Ethic

If your employees begin to “give up” on their job, it will manifest itself in many ways – but the most noticeable will be in their attitudes and work ethic.  If you notice a formerly chipper and productive member of your staff no longer engages with you or other employees, no longer provides spontaneous input, and lets his or her work quality slip, there’s a good chance this employee is sliding down the slippery slope into apathy.  Sometimes this apathy can be brought on by personal stress, but sometimes it’s brought on by a change at the company or even a change in the employee’s expectations.

It may be a good idea to give these types of employee something new to do.  By including them on different types of projects or shifting them to other departments, you may be able to reinvigorate their commitment to the company.

Verbally Expressing Unhappiness

If your employees are actually telling you and others how unhappy they are in their jobs, there’s a good chance they’re ready to quit.  Generally, when these sorts of feeling arise, employees try to keep them to themselves.  They don’t want to be singled out and they don’t want others to see them as “whiners.”

However, as these feelings of unhappiness grow, they get harder and harder to hide.  They’ll often come out around the water cooler, on social media sites or even in your office – giving you the opportunity to address the situation with the employee and look for ways to resolve the situation.

Keep ‘Em If You Can, Can ‘Em if You Can’t

If you spot any of these habits or “tells” in your employees, the first step should always be to engage them.  Opening a dialogue may be all it takes to win an excellent employee over once again.  However, understanding why an employee is doing what they are doing may force you into making a tough decision.

While it’s in your best interest to keep good employees when you can, letting employees go when they become a liability is also in your best interest.  Therefore, if you discover an employee really is intent on quitting, asking them to leave sooner than later may be the best option.  This will allow you to minimize conflict and plan for their replacement without disrupting your company’s overall workflow.

 

7 Warning Signs that Your Employees are About to Quit by

63 Responses to “7 Warning Signs that Your Employees are About to Quit”

  1. SJABradley

    Another fairly good giveaway is updating their LinkedIn profiles and ramping up their connections…

    Reply
  2. Debbie Narver

    Good advice. Organizational change can also be a trigger if employees fear they may end up in a lesser position.

    Reply
  3. sammysunshine

    How about this? How about making sure that your company is taking the time to engage these employees. If your employees are looking elsewhere, there is a darn good reason. People just don’t uproot their entire careers just for the sake of a few dollars. Objectively examine why your employees are disengaged. Chances are, it is not because they are disloyal or somehow a liability, it is because they really feel there is a problem that continues to be unsolved by your company. Take ownership of employee engagement, keep employees happy (and yes, it can be done without spending wads of money and time) and ask the correct questions. Own up to the shortcomings of your firm. Plain and simple.

    Reply
  4. PD MacGuire

    The worst thing a manager/boss can do is to let it be seen, or even thought, that they have favorites. You cannot afford to be friends with your employees. Even showing favoritism to your own children will raise hackles and cause resentments.

    Reply
  5. whippoorwill

    I expressed almost all of these “signs” prior to finally quitting my last job. I was “over-supervised” by an incompetent (until she was 47 she thought there were 52 states! She didn’t know what “antiquated” meant, etc.etc.) micro manager who even attempted to dictate how me and my two other co-workers organized our time and how we even used Outlook! I let the Operations Manager know several times what was happening and how it was affecting the whole team’s morale and motivation. Nothing. Since I left my former co-workers tell me nothing’s changed.

    Reply
    • Chad Halvorson

      Sometimes actions are hard to come by at a company. Good for you for expressing your concerns. Even though they went unheard at that company, you’re better off expressing them just so that you at least have it off your chest. Then if no action is taken, you can take your own action. Thanks for sharing!

      Reply
    • Fatman

      Your former employer would have been better suited if it arranged for that ‘micro manager’ to experience a Trebuchet ride (also known as a career trajectory adjustment).

      It would have been a win-win.

      The company would have kept a valuable employee and rid itself of an incompetent. But, sadly, things didn’t turn out that way. You see, manglers protect each other. You had little other options, but leave.

      Hopefully, that mangler will continue to dance blindfolded in a minefield, and one fateful day…..

      Reply
  6. Robyn Stanley

    Heh. I wasn’t in the frame of mind to leave my previous company – and at the highest stress point of my entire life, things fell apart and now I’m looking for other work. Now the stress is nearly gone and I’m looking for a new company to settle into. It may end up being a company I’ve created myself.

    Reply
    • Chad Halvorson

      Sometimes it can sneak up on you. If you can find fulfillment in creating your own biz, that’s a fantastic feeling. Thanks for sharing!

      Reply
  7. Been_there

    Frankly, I have to say that article looses a lot of credibility despite some very good points because of the employer-biased perspective it was written from.

    Reply
  8. Statton & Associates Coaching

    Another reason to take note? They may be about to jump because they’ve been trying to warn you about the holes in the boat and you haven’t been listening because you think you know you better but the boat might really be about to sink! If you listened you might have been able to save their job and yours too!

    Reply
    • Sally

      As a middle manager, I know there are holes in the boat, but I can’t do anything to fix them, and I can no longer hide them from my directs.

      Reply
    • FedUP

      Exactly. I went to work for a company that won the contract from another company and retained a lot of it’s employees. There was a reason the contract was lost and the legacy employees show it. The current boss was promoted from that pool and has loyalties to these individuals though they are doing nothing professionally to do the contract any good. I came from an environment where professional behavior was mandatory and I just don’t think I can hang around a toxic environment like this. What the boss doesn’t seem to get is that myself and others from my old company have offered advice in order to help him avoid troubles but his allegiance to dead beat legacy employees is driving us new folk right out the door.

      Reply
    • Fatman

      They may be about to jump because they’ve been trying to warn you about
      the holes in the boat and you haven’t been listening because you think
      you know you better but the boat might really be about to sink!

      How about a better metaphor:

      They may be about to jump, because your hull is split open wider than the Titanic, water is pouring in everywhere, the Captain is off playing golf (or whatever); and they do not want to be chained to the deck when the ship finally slips under the waves. They are praying all along that if they manage to get free of the ship, the giant suxxing created by the ship sinking doesn’t pull them under at the last minute.

      Reply
  9. LizG

    Why is leaving on time a bad sign? You’re not paying them to be there, so why should they? Employees have lives away from work, get over it.

    Reply
    • HelldeskMinion

      Not bad in & of itself, but it indicates several other things that may be. Like they are watching the clock to get out ASAP and only there for that time that they absolutely have to be. This further shows they don’t want to be there and wish they were somewhere else. It can also indicate that they aren’t interested in the work, just performing as much as they have to. People who enjoy what they are doing are more productive.

      It also shows that they have already packed up so they can get out on the bell so you lose a bit more time there as well.

      “People who say the dead never come back to life, should be here at quitting time!”

      Yes, I have worked in places like this. The work was fine, and the people I worked with were good. But the Manglement made it hell. And as soon as the clock hit quitting time it was a mass rush out the door.

      Reply
  10. Holly Leeming

    Who does these surveys? Try this pay your employee what their worth. In many companies you have go getters, usually start off liking their jobs, that is until they start to feel as they are being taken advantage of. Doing the work of two or three employees, just to have another employee, dodge their own duties, both to receive the same pay, And not as much as a thank you from their employer. These employees will inevitably quit hoping the next employer appreciates them for what they do. So pay an employee for how hard they work, it may give your lazy employees the incentive too work harder, if that doesn’t work, fire them.

    Reply
  11. Halibut

    Is the targeted employer audience from a planet that doesn’t exist or Planet Perfect-Bosses-That-Do-Not-Exist?

    Reply
  12. Shivakumar A

    Providing Life insurance can also help owners to create a kind of sympathy for employees

    Reply
  13. Willie

    If a good employee leaves and the problems aren’t addressed, chances are the next one will leave too or worse yet, you will be stuck with a bad employee who is more than willing to stay at all costs.

    Reply
  14. Iagreetolife4myself

    These signs might be a person who is depressed and hates co-workers, boss, etc. Many instances. @ giving up on workload, if your boss is a tool and giving you tons of work and you have limited time, space, etc aka: resources. Than you are unhappy. Also, I always leave on time because I need to get home by 6 P.M. because I live in a big metropolitan area with that said if your boss is so paranoid and is looking over your shoulder like mine, which I admit the crazy neurotic boss is always the worst boss to have than you beg for a day to get out of dodge. @ Personal crisis and jealousy gosh, that happens at the core of any competing place, either one person wants to succeed and become and have more money or etc. So in theory anyone who is jelious is ready to quit, how stupid can one person be to sell this bs on here. Lastly, personal crisis always and will always come up, for anyone, if your that 1% of people who have a perfect track record, now is a good time to kiss your own a** because no one will do it for you. [;-). People are people, stuff happens, I miss a few day’s here and there, and hell even the boss did. So that means he hates work, this article was written by a complete dimwit. Complete trash.

    Reply
  15. OrionRed

    Need to add these:

    They argue with you about matters within their expertise
    It’s not their place to tell you if something is possible or feasible, they have their task in front of them and should be happy to do it.

    They express concern for timelines
    As a boss, you have much more experience and can easily estimate the time needed to complete tasks. No one in your group should feel the need to question your delivery dates.

    They raise concerns about other employees’ behaviors
    You are in charge of everyone, and no one needs to do your job for you. If a person is not performing, you would know.

    They bother you at home on the weekends
    The project is running late because of their lazy work ethic, so they should leave you to rest on your day off instead of calling to ask you for things like door keys and documentation.

    They are inflexible
    In today’s world, business needs change every day. That’s why it should never be a problem for someone to get daily changes in design. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve known about the change, it wasn’t relevant until the wrong product was created.

    They attempt to ask questions at company events
    Upper management holds these events in order to reward the managers for doing such a great job. If they wanted to hear from the riff raff, you wouldn’t need to approve the questions.

    The bottom line / common thread here is that once an employee looks up from their rightfully assigned tasks, they have become a problem. Since there are so many people out of work who are willing to just sit and do what you tell them, you need to get rid of the trouble makers.

    Reply
    • Adam's Eye

      My workers? I think that I hate ‘em
      They’ve issued a new ultimatum
      “Please show us respect
      We won’t genuflect
      Or learn your new motto verbatim.”

      Reply
    • Goaty McCheese

      These are good but they assume that you the boss are good at your job. And sometimes that is not true. A detached boss often doesn’t know how long tasks take, and often doesn’t know who’s performing and who is not. Ultimately, all company problems are problems of leadership. A fish rots from the head down.

      Reply
    • ChatteNoire13

      Wow. You are a terrible boss with a major ego. I would never work for someone like that. That attitude speaks volumes about your perception of yourself- perfect, incapable of mistakes, all-knowing and all-powerful, and all-important – and your perception of your employees – insignificant, peons, without promise and limited to one purpose. You seem to think you are some kind of corporate god. Not every one wants to be a worker bee forever. I see in your post a desire to keep your spot at the top of the food chain and a resentment of anyone who aspires to be more than they currently are.

      Reply
      • OrionRed

        Just so you know…I was satirizing the tone of the article. I am no one’s boss, not even my own! So I was was trying to poke fun at the target audience that may actually AGREE with that carp.

        Reply
  16. JIM THE BOSS

    ANNOTTHER SIGNG IS WEHN THAY COMPAIN WEHN THERE PAYCHECCKS BOUNNCE ONE GRIPPE AND I KICK THERE WROTHLESSE ASSKS OUT THE DORR

    Reply
  17. O2BIrish

    Do you honestly think that if an employee wants to leave because of the way they are being treated by a boss that they will come right out and voice why they don’t like it to that boss? I can tell you from personal experience that it doesn’t help anything, and only turns you into a target. Maybe an article on workplace bullying would be in order. I’ve been a victim, and most of the time, it was the bosses doing it.

    I also agree with LizG about the leaving on time issue. There was a guy at a previous employer that you could use the time he left as a benchmark to set your watch. I was told that he had one night when he stayed really late to get some hot jobs done, and got in trouble from the president (it is a rather small company) for not coming in on time. From then on, quitting time was quitting time, no matter what.

    Reply
    • Fatman

      Do you honestly think that if an employee wants to leave because of the
      way they are being treated by a boss that they will come right out and
      voice why they don’t like it to that boss?

      Which is why I never do exit interviews. You are on the way out, why give the cesspool of a company you are leaving any ammunition for making your life miserable in the future. There are bosses and manglers who wouldn’t get it if you beat them over the head with a clue by four. Why waste your time??

      Leave, and go on with your life.

      Reply
    • Adam's Eye

      My current boss has said to me, “Work is what you do to make money. Family is what you do for your life.”
      A boss who recognizes that, like the business, we’re only there because we need money is a rare gem. Don’t act like your employees are puppies who are excited to see you every time you deign to waltz in the door.

      Reply
      • NewBoss

        I am a new “boss” who owns my own business. I truly got it mixed up! I love what I do and thought that my employees “loved” it too!
        She was only there for the money, not for the passion! She was an excellent at her job, but didn’t want to take on added responsibilities. I’m happy that I hired her, because she taught me the hard way that workers don’t give a crap about your dreams, they are just there for a paycheck. It is unfortunate that I will treat every employee now like they are out to “get” me instead of having a true interest in what the company stands for. :(

        Reply
        • Sidney Ford

          It’s sad to get harsh life lessons like you’ve described. However, there is a middle ground between expecting others to care deeply about your dreams (what are hers, do you know…or care?) and feeling that every employee is “out to get you.” Please find a mentor, it sounds like you could use the support from someone not on your payroll whom you can easily trust.

          Reply
    • HelldeskMinion

      True. You will often get slammed for the slightest infraction, but it is extremely rare to get credit for doing extra to get the job done.

      Reply
  18. Colorado_Expat

    From the point of view of someone who’s left a job… Toxic bosses are a major reason people leave.

    I had a boss who rose to his position via schmooze & office politics – not via expertise in his field. He was getting kickbacks from our “preferred supplier” for computer & network consumables, blew off subordinate’s warnings regarding network security, insisted his shortcuts regarding server OS upgrades would work despite written warnings from the software publishers specifically cautioning against the path he wanted to take, etc., etc., etc. When I left, my parting statement was that it was “Like leaving the Titanic at Cherbourg after doing the lifeboat math.”

    Unreasonable and / or demeaning expectations from a boss are another factor; demanding a network engineer halt all projects in order to clean out the malware from the boss’ home computer (while overlooking the “adult content” pictures) is never proper – especially when the engineer later gets hit for not delivering the projects on time…

    Among the worst are the bosses who lie to their subordinates in demanding extended hours & weekend work, saying they’d gotten the go-ahead from HR for it, when in actuality, they’d over-promised to their bosses.

    Reply
  19. Big Brother

    If an employee is borrowing fellow employees’ logon credentials and downloading massive volumes of your carefully collected data, you may wish to “fire” them before they flee the country and seek asylum.

    Big Brother learned this the hard way.

    Reply
  20. Fatman

    Unfortunately, their feelings don’t really have any correlation to what’s best for the company manglement. You have to promote on skill incompetence and intuition favoritism alone – not on tenure leadership ability or personal
    opinion strengths.

    I really needed to fix that paragraph.

    Reply
    • HelldeskMinion

      Altered to reflect the reality experienced by those not employed in Manglement, I see.

      You have to promote on skill incompetence and intuition favoritism alone

      I have certainly seen this one occur. When the incompetent, Yes man who Zucked up to the boss was promoted rather than someone competent. After all, promoting the incompetent doesn’t affect the production adversely. Manglement can even point to the fewer CROCKUPS to prove that the incompetent’s promotion was right because of improved productivity!

      Reply
  21. Adel fay

    Shocking how many employers don’t care about their employees
    Some employees are so hard to work with too

    Reply
  22. workhorse

    Funny…how that whole “employment at will” thing cuts both ways. Bosses don’t like it when the employee wants to call the shots, but the bosses have no problem casting someone adrift when things don’t go their way.

    Reply
  23. AG

    im in the same situation seems more often than not. im a small IT business owner and keeping good employees is a daily effort but worth it…they see the commitment that we make and we do to them as well. I just had to let go of someone today that had huge potential. The reasons are too long but essentially the team couldn’t rely on him.

    The issue was personal (from my understanding) but he was very quick to decide that he wants to leave. His reason, he love this job, its exciting, but i have other things that il have to think about.

    My “grey area” is ive heard this exact thing before, and i do have a team does the selection as well.
    The reason for the post isnt to decide what pitfalls i think we may have as a company, i do think that we really try to keep our staff (i have a guy working from home for the past week and a half because his wife is expecting), We gave the company a day off if they could answer some IT RELATED questions, we do team building etc etc…

    My grey area is i do agree, man the interviews can be long, short, 3 month, 6 month probation, i think we have realized that if an employee stays 2 Years, they are staying…if we have issues with 6 month persons, they will most likely go.

    i agree with the article from a business owner prospective and i also agree that you need to put all cards on the table with the employee and decide if its worth it. If it is not, you gotta move on and it places a big strain on the movement forward.

    Sorry for the long post as im on here looking to see what new things i can do to interview better and make a better selection – I cant find the right answer yet :

    Reply
    • Jeff Phillips

      Sorry I’m a month late, I don’t even know if I’ll even make it back here to read any reply, however: Yes AG I can hear your enthusiasm for your IT business, as indeed most any newish boss would, but can I just say a few things here? The reason that worker sounded ready to just go was because they themselves had heard all the signs they needed to jump ship at that very point. This is where I come in, if I had (somehow impossibly) been there I was swooped in verbaly and said him or her that they needn’t give it away just because all sounds just too tough at that moment in their workplace! Notice I said their workplace? You asked any of us listening to make helpful comment, I too will help you if you promise to help another. It is truely just as much any of ‘our workplaces’ as it is the bosses, you see. Any and all of us have to attend something somewhere all the time through each year. Do any of us WANT to be at whatever place, no matter how interesting? Seriously, no. But if we feel there’s just the right amount of change through the day, just the right amount of personal space, personal interaction, kindly speaking, then we feel more inclined to turn up, and even do more than normal. I am glad you wrote here, as it helps all those who havn’t gone far enough along as yourself even. I’ll try popping back to hear. But never give up hope. You know they say something about we have to give twice the effort for one gain. Humanity is exactly the same. I might like a number of friends, but the equated effort is just too darned hard to accomplish in real life. Above and beyond this, always do your upmost to keep workers, not just the most productive. If every job could be secured in this world…

      Reply
  24. Shemy

    Meh,
    You are very much so on point.
    I find it very strange that people that work so hard many times are overlooked for promotional opportunities in the workplace.
    Employers, should not make excuses for not promoting employees; neither should they hinder them from moving on or taking a different career path or seeking a new job opportunity.
    “Can em” really? Is this the best advice provided to employers? If so,
    employees probably should stop giving two week notices. Perhaps employees should walk out the door the when they sign their offer letter; and take two weeks off in Maui or so?
    Taking two weeks off; and not giving an employer an advance notice is unprofessional and unreasonable; and so is “Canning employees or hindering their progress.
    Meh, again you are so on point!

    Reply
  25. Shemy

    Jawad,
    I agree couldn’t agree more with your post.
    As the old saying goes, “if you can’t give a person what he or she needs; the person will find it elsewhere.”

    Reply
  26. BigDawg

    lets face it, If you were working for Google and Apple, you would find the elements you need to not only keep your job but create a competitive edge as an employee.

    Reply

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