7 Warning Signs that Your Employees are About to Quit

Let’s face it – the hiring process can be a nightmare. It’s 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 about to quit before they’ve even made up their minds.

Download our free Exit Interview Questionnaire and handle your next one like a pro. Get answers that will help you run a more successful business and retain employees longer.

7 signs an employee is looking for another job

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 will 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 by adjusting their work schedule 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.

Read Also: 16 Simple Ways To Invest In Your Employees And Reduce Turnover

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 based 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.

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 employees 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 feelings 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.

To uncover the warning signs of an unhappy employee, check out: 5 Ways To Gauge How Happy Your Hourly Workers Are

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.

What to do if an employee wants to quit

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.

To help you figure out what’s best for your situation, check out: 12 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Letting An Employee Go.

Should an employee leave, make sure you have a hiring plan in place. Try using a recruitment tool to simplify and speed up the process.


When you see the signs an employee is about to quit, you need to jump in and be proactive. If you can talk to them and understand their reasoning, you may be able to adopt changes to keep all of your employees happy.

If you’ve noticed that team communication or scheduling issues have become a source of discontent, check out When I Work. You’ll be able to reduce your employees’ (and your own!) stress by streamlining the scheduling process, time tracking, and team communication.  

Sign up today for a 14-day free trial to see how When I Work can support your team’s success.

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