12 Signs an Employee is About to Quit and How to Deal With It

Employee carying box with belongings while leaving office symbolising and quitting his job

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, almost 4.4 million employees left their job in January 2022. So if you're worried about losing your star employees, your concerns are valid.

In today's competitive business environment, employee retention is critical for organizational success. A high employee turnover rate can lead to a loss of knowledge, skills, and productivity, not to mention the associated costs of recruiting and onboarding new employees. Therefore, identifying and addressing potential turnover risks is essential for any organization that values its workforce.

There are several warning signs that may indicate an employee is considering leaving their job. While these signs may not always be definitive, they should prompt managers to have open and honest conversations with their employees to understand their concerns and address any underlying issues.

Let's take a look at 12 signs an employee is about to quit and what you can do to prevent it.

1. Being Reluctant to Commit to Long-Term Projects

When an employee is hesitant to commit to a long-term project, it suggests a lack of confidence in their future with the company. They may feel disengaged or unmotivated, believing that their efforts will not be valued or rewarded.

Engage the employee in discussions about their long-term career goals and aspirations. Align their individual goals with the company's objectives, demonstrating that their contributions are valuable and essential for the company's success.

2. Taking More Time Off Than Usual

An increase in absences, especially unexplained ones, could indicate that an employee is seeking other opportunities or dealing with personal issues that are affecting their work.

Openly discuss the employee's reasons for taking more time off. If personal issues are affecting their work, offer support and resources to help them manage their situation. If they are exploring other job opportunities, address any underlying reasons for their dissatisfaction and try to improve their work experience.

3. Increased Engagement on LinkedIn and Other Job-Hunting Resources

Another warning sign is when an employee actively engages on job-hunting platforms. It suggests they are actively considering leaving their current job and are looking for a new position.

Initiate an open and honest conversation with the employee to understand their motivations. If they are seeking a new job, explore ways to enhance their current role or provide them with growth opportunities within the company.

4. Personality and Attitude Change

A sudden change in an employee's personality or attitude, such as increased irritability, social withdrawal, or a lack of enthusiasm, could be a sign of dissatisfaction or stress.

Managers should not ignore such changes. Instead, they should proactively check in with the employee regularly to assesstheir well-being and gain insights into their concerns. Open and empathetic conversations can help uncover the root cause of the behavioral shift and negative attitude, whether it's work-related stress, personal challenges, or a combination of both.

If the employee is experiencing personal or work-related stress, managers should offer support and resources to help them cope. This could include providing access to employee assistance programs, networking events, flexible work arrangements, or encouraging them to take breaks and utilize vacation time.

5. Decline in Active Participation and Productivity

A noticeable drop in an employee's work performance, such as missing deadlines, decreased quality of work, or a lack of attention to detail, indicates a lack of engagement and motivation. This could be due to a variety of factors, such as boredom or lack of challenge, feeling undervalued or unappreciated, work-life imbalance, and issues with their personal lives.

To address this matter, start with identifying the root cause of poor performance. Is it due to extra responsibilities, lack of training, or personal issues? Provide support and resources to help the employee address the underlying issue. This could include additional training, a more manageable workload, or help with personal problems.

6. Increasingly Critical of Company Policies

When an employee becomes increasingly critical of company policies, procedures, or management decisions, it suggests a growing sense of frustration and dissatisfaction. This could appear in various forms, such as voicing frequent complaints, openly expressing disagreement, or even actively seeking out a team member to share their criticisms.

Managers should approach employee criticism with an open mind and a willingness to address valid concerns. Openly discuss the employee's feedback and engage them in constructive conversations to understand their perspectives and identify potential areas for improvement.

Actively involving the unhappy employee in the decision-making process can also help mitigate their criticisms. When employees feel heard, valued, and have a say in the decisions that affect their work, they are more likely to feel invested in the company's success and less inclined to express undue criticism.

7. Increased Personal Phone Use

young business woman using mobile phone at work

Excessive use of personal devices during work hours, such as spending more time on social media, engaging in personal calls, or checking personal emails, can be a sign of disengagement and a lack of interest in work responsibilities.

To address this issue, managers should establish clear guidelines for personal device usage during different working hours. These guidelines should outline acceptable and unacceptable use cases and set expectations for appropriate device usage. For instance, personal calls may be restricted to designated breaks, while social media usage may be limited to specific times or prohibited altogether.

Encouraging employees to take regular breaks and utilize vacation time to focus on mental health can also help maintain a healthy work-life balance and reduce the temptation to use personal devices excessively during work hours.

8. Making Unrealistic Requests

When an employee makes unrealistic requests or demands that are not aligned with their role or company expectations, it suggests a sense of entitlement or a lack of understanding of their responsibilities.

Clearly define expectations for the employee's role and provide regular feedback on their performance. Address any unrealistic expectations with empathy and understanding, ensuring they align with company values.

9. Resignation of Close Colleagues

When an employee's close colleagues resign, it can create a sense of uncertainty and instability, leading them to question their own future with the company.

Address the underlying reasons for the colleagues' resignations and make necessary changes to improve the work environment and retain top talent. Openly communicate with remaining employees about the company's future plans and reiterate their value to the organization.

10. Lack of Interest in Career Advancement

When an employee once expressed interest in career advancement or professional development but suddenly loses interest, it suggests that they see no future for themselves within the company. Also, less interest in self-development opportunities, such as training programs, mentorship, or attendance at industry events, indicates a lack of motivation and a belief that their skills are not valued.

Engage the employee in discussions about their career aspirations and explore opportunities for growth and advancement within the company. If they feel their skills are not being utilized or their contributions are not being recognized, provide opportunities for them to showcase their talent.

Managers should also encourage and support employees in their pursuit of self-development. Offer tuition reimbursement, provide mentorship opportunities, and promote a culture of continuous learning within the organization.

11. Avoiding Work Social Events

While work social events can strengthen relationships with other team members, some employees may choose to avoid them. This could be due to introversion, social anxiety, a perceived lack of relevance to their work, or simply a preference for spending their free time in other ways.

Managers should respect an employee's decision to opt out of social events, but they should also make an effort to ensure that the employee feels included and valued. This could involve inviting them to one-on-one lunches or coffee meetings, or simply making an effort to connect with them on a personal level during work hours.

If an employee consistently avoids work social events, it could be a sign that they are feeling disengaged or disconnected from the company culture. Managers should open a dialogue with the employee to understand their concerns and address any underlying issues.

12. Changes in Personal Appearance

A sudden change in an employee's personal appearance can be a subtle but significant indicator of underlying issues. This could manifest in various ways, such as a lack of attention to grooming, a disregard for the company dress code, or a noticeable decline in overall neatness.

A change in personal appearance could reflect a decline in motivation or engagement. When employees are invested in their work and feel valued by their organization, they often take pride in their presentation. Conversely, when they feel disengaged or unappreciated, they may let their personal appearance slide, subconsciously signaling their detachment from the workplace.

Another possibility is that a change in personal appearance stems from a major life event or challenges that are affecting the employee's overall well-being. Stress, anxiety, or even physical health concerns can manifest in changes in grooming habits and overall appearance.

Managers should approach such changes with sensitivity and understanding. Instead of jumping to conclusions, it's crucial to engage in open and empathetic conversations with the employee to understand the root cause of the change. Listen attentively to their concerns and offer support if needed. By addressing the underlying issues, managers can help the employee regain their motivation and return to their usual well-groomed appearance.

Final Thoughts

Identifying and addressing signs of an employee's impending departure is crucial for minimizing turnover and maintaining a high-performing workforce. The human resources department plays a critical role in implementing retention strategies, fostering open communication, and creating a positive work environment. By proactively addressing employee concerns, recognizing good employees, and providing opportunities for growth, organizations can decrease turnover, prevent productivity drops, and maintain a thriving company culture.

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