How To Tell If Your Employee Is About To Quit

Is your employee about to jump ship?


We all know how expensive it is to replace an employee and there are studies published all the time on the high turnover rates of employees. It is not a shock that in a recent study by Gallup, 70% of the workforce reported that they are NOT ENGAGED.


We would all like to think our employees are happy, engaged and not going to leave anytime soon. The reality is an employee could quit at any moment, whether or not your workflow is at an all-time high, you are in the middle of a busy season, or have your nose to the grindstone recruiting for twelve new positions. Having heard from many candidates that they have thought about or made the decision to quit long before they even start looking for their next job, I have developed a list of key attributes exhibited by an employee who is getting ready to quit.


Here are my top tips on how to tell if an employee is about to quit:


Lack of interest in their work

Work is not always fun, but a major shift in someone’s character may be a key indicator that he or she is mentally preparing to leave the job. It is a red flag when an employee goes from seemingly enjoying their daily tasks with little to no complaints to missing deadlines by completely avoiding a significant portion of their responsibilities. In a recent study by Utah State University, they found that most employees start to “disengage” in their workplace when thinking about quitting. What does disengagement look like? The study gives a few key examples:

  • Offering fewer constructive contributions in meetings
  • Reluctance to commit to long-term projects
  • Avoiding social interaction with the boss and management
  • A loss of interest in advancement within the organization


Taking too much time off

Leaving work in the middle of the day is something that most employees try to avoid but is eventually inevitable. If you start to see an increase in lengthy lunches, calling in sick for multiple days in the span of two weeks or scheduling an unusually large amount of doctor’s visits, this may be an indicator that your employee is taking interviews during working hours.
If they are not interviewing, they may simply be taking time off due to lack of interest and further disengagement at work by mentally preparing themselves for a departure.


A different style of dress

Most people have a predictable style of dress whether they are trendy, casual, or wearing a business suit. It is not odd to see someone who is trendy to come in with a new outfit every day, but if this trendy person goes from wearing bright colored outfits to a muted, classic suit, there is potential that this person is interviewing. Keep in mind, there is no reason to be alarmed if your entire team is dressed up for a Client visit.


Taking an increased amount of personal calls

Is your employee who usually chats on the phone openly in their office stepping out to the hallway and talking in a hushed voice? Are they booking conference rooms and using their personal phone instead of the conference room phone? Everyone is guilty of using their personal phone once in a while at work, but if you notice one of these changes it could be time for a conversation.


What to do if you notice your employee exhibiting these attributes

Each manager or executive has their own way of handling the potential of an employee leaving. What I like to do is address the situation head on and ask the employee if everything is all right. I prefer being honest and stating that I have noticed one of the listed mannerisms and ask if they want to talk to me about anything. I hope employees feel they can be honest with me, but more often than not I have seen two outcomes: The first being that the employee becomes very defensive which usually confirms my intuition that they are looking to leave. The second response is typically a breakdown and apology followed by the canned response “I have a lot going on in my personal life right now.”


Now that you are armed with this information, and if you become aware of a noticeable change in your employee’s mannerisms, proceed cautiously. Nobody wants to be around a manager who is constantly suspicious of their employee’s motives. At the end of the day, your employees are human and are typically going to do what is best for themselves not the company. What you are in control of is setting your business and team up to move forward swiftly and efficiently even if one of your employees does decide to quit.



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