Human Resources News & Insights

10 warning signs a great employee’s about to quit

Think you know the signs when someone’s about to quit — having lots of doctor appointments, showing up in a suit, etc.? Well, according to new research, the cues that someone is about to jump ship are much subtler. 

Tim Gardner, an associate professor at Utah State University’s Jon M. Huntsman School of Business, conducted a study on voluntary turnover and found employees often showed the same behavioral changes in the months leading up to their departures.

But here’s the kicker: They’re not necessarily the kind of behavior changes you’d tend to associate with someone who’s thinking of walking out the door.

What to watch for:

Gardner’s research highlighted 10 warning signs an employee’s about to quit — as well as some warming signs employers commonly associate with job-hoppers but aren’t necessarily indicative that someone’s thinking of leaving.

First, let’s tackle the warning signs someone’s about to hand in their notice. Here’s a list worth passing along to managers so they can help you save checked-out employees before it’s too late:

  • Employees become more reserved and quiet.
  • Workers seem to “tune out” in meetings and stop offering constructive contributions.
  • Employees show an increased reluctance to commit to long-term projects.
  • Workers become less interested in opportunities to advance.
  • Staffers become less interested in pleasing their bosses and don’t seem to care about how their performance will impact their next review.
  • Workers avoid social interactions with their superiors and other members of management.
  • Employees stop making suggestions for new processes.
  • Workers only do the bare minimum and no longer go beyond the call of duty.
  • Employees become less interested in participating in training and development programs (for themselves and/or others).
  • Staffers’ productivity goes down, and they seem aware but don’t care about the problem.

Of course, it’s possible for one or two of these to apply to an employee who isn’t looking to leave — but even then, it’s still something worth addressing.

And, as you can imagine, the more that apply to a single individual, the more you can bet he or she is thinking of jumping ship.

More myth than reality?

Something Gardner and his research team — which included Huntsman professor Steve Hanks and Chad H. Van Iddekinge of Florida State University — did think was unexpected were the behaviors that didn’t make the above list.

Examples:

  • Workers having lots of doctor appointments.
  • Employees showing up in a suit.
  • Staffers who start showing up late.
  • Employees failing to return phone calls and emails.
  • Workers taking lots of sick days.
  • Staffers punching out early.
  • Employees taking more vacation time.

Gardner and his team found that these behaviors weren’t unique to perspective job-hoppers, therefore they weren’t rated as highly. But, certainly, they’re still concerning.

Info: Gardner & Co.’s findings were included in a research paper that is currently under review for publication.

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  • Lee

    These are also the signs of really good, dedicated employees being devalued and not given opportunities for advancement.

  • Ani Moon Child Fronek

    I think a good Manager will see these signs and try to find out what is the core of the problems.An employee could have personal issues that just need understanding ; or it could be job related ~ but if so, then a good Manager should be able to then identify and turn the situation around. A bad Manager will ignore the signs because they are the cause usually and they don’t see themselves as the problem. Like the saying….”A Bad Manager can take a good staff and destroy it, causing the best Employees to flee and the remainder to lose all motivation” .

  • The 10 signs point to a disengaged manager.

    Fix the managers and employees will need less fixing.