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Management Skills

5 Signs Your Employees are Ready to Quit


Jul 14, 2015

It used to be obvious. The new suit worn to work. Someone running to the copy machine to grab that resume they just printed. The hushed phone calls. 

But today with resumes traveling electronically, cell phones in every pocket and increasingly casual attire even for interviews, it's harder than ever to tell when your employees are looking to jump to a new company. With the increasingly tight labor markets in many fields and the high cost of employee turnover, that's information a manager needs if she wants to head off a departure...or start looking for a possible replacement.  

Thank goodness there are still some big hints that an observant employer can spot when staff members are thinking about bolting. Here are five common signs that your employees are ready to quit. 

1) They stop asking about growth or training

Engaged employees are interested in learning how to do their jobs better. Or maybe they're focused on mastering the skills needed for the next level on the company ladder. Either way, they're excited about training opportunities. But when someone's eyes are on the door, they'll stop asking about what's next. 

2) They'll update their LinkedIn profile

The paper resume might be dead, but LinkedIn is very much alive. Of course, some people add new material to their profile every time they get a new assignment or master a new skill. But a sudden burst of updates, especially with new recommendations appearing is a pretty reliable sign that they're looking elsewhere. 

3) There's a big change in mood 

Everybody has up days and down days. But when that usually grumpy employee is suddenly all smiles and grins for days on end, take notice. They might be in love. They might have won the lottery. Or they might be looking forward to their last day in a job they really didn't like. 

On the other end, a staffer counting down the days can develop a case of take-this-job-and-shove-it attitude. 

Yes, people get frustrated with their jobs and their colleagues all the time. And even, wonder of wonders, frustrated with their boss. Sometimes that comes out as a suddenly bad attitude from an otherwise good employee. It comes, and after a day or so, and it usually goes.

But when a new position is on the horizon, but it's not yet time for that resignation letter, oh the attitude that can appear! Previously helpful employees become too busy to pitch in. Even-tempered ones express pent-up resentments. Deadlines are missed without explanation or concern. And then there's that half concealed smile as they ignore your third request for the sales report...

4) The whisper and duck

If you see one of your employees suddenly whispering to coworkers, only to duck away as soon as you're in sight, it could be a surprise party in the works. Or maybe a bit of juicy gossip is making the rounds. But if it lasts more than a few days, it's a fair guess that a two-week notice might be heading for your desk soon. 

5) They stop ordering supplies or filling their calendar

If employees at your company have to request office supplies like note pads, pens or folders, a sudden drop off in requests can signal a plan to leave sometime soon. After all, how many staples and paper clips can one person use in three weeks? The same goes for scheduling meetings ahead or taking on new projects. When the long term plans disappear, it's time to wonder if someone is waiting for their next offer.

But then again...

Of course, all of these signs can be from other causes. A family issue. An illness or a financial worry. Depression or another mental health challenge. Or even insecurity about your company or their current position. But knowing some of the common signs of an impending march out the door can allow you to address it sooner, and talk with your employee about what you've observed. Then you can act proactively to keep them on-board, or wish them well and start writing a new job description. 

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