25 Signs Your Employee Is About to Quit, According to Research

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Employee turnover is a major concern for employers – no matter the state of the economy. And, for good reason. It’s frustrating, time-consuming, and expensive.

Several studies have found that the total cost of losing an employee covers a large range. The cost may be tens of thousands of dollars to 1.5-2X annual salary.

The high cost is due to costs involved with hiring, on-boarding, training, lost productivity, and business errors. Each business owner could add to this list of what they have lost besides the employee.

Business owners and supervisors should be aware of the warning signs that an employee is about to quit. Another study on voluntary employee turnover was conducted by Tim Gardner. Gardner is from Utah State University’s Jon M. Huntsman School of Business.

Included here is some additional research on the subject. These behaviors can be used to help you identify when an employee is going to leave you out in the cold.

1. They no longer commit to long-term projects.

When an employee has made the decision to move on from an organization they’re less inclined to commit to long-term projects. The project could prevent them from meeting their departure date.

The employee would prefer to wrap-up their current workload so that they can leave free and clear.

2. They’re more active on LinkedIn.

Jennifer Winter, a career consultant, writes in The Muse. Winter indicates that, “when you see an employee constantly on LinkedIn, it probably shouldn’t raise any red flags.

However, a sudden uptick in new connections, groups joined, or articles shared could be an indication. Your employee is trying to boost his or her social profile–and find his or her next big thing.”

Building new connections on LinkedIn, or the employee searching for jobs on job search sites are an indication. Researching other companies is also an indication that they’re ready to quit.

3. They contribute less during meetings.

If an engaged employee suddenly becomes less active during meetings, it may be an indication. Maybe they used to provide great insights or contributions.

This is a pretty solid indicator that something is going on. It may be a family or personal crises, but either way, you should care.

4. They want to attend conferences or workshops.

Not everyone has the desire to attend conferences or workshops. The employee who’s never expressed interest in attending conferences or workshops suddenly starts to go, could be a sign. Maybe they’re just hoping to strengthen their skills or knowledge or they’re trying to make themselves more visible.

If there’s someone who previously expressed interest in conferences and workshops and is now indifferent, could be a sign. Maybe they’re not interested in developing any new skills or knowledge that could benefit your organization.

5. Absenteeism.

Did the employee rarely call-in sick or take an extended vacation? Now they’re hardly ever in the office. That’s another sign that they’re disengaged. Maybe they’re searching for new employment opportunities, using-up acquired time-off, or maxing out their benefits.

6. Act more reserved or quiet.

Once an employee decides to leave they’re going to act more reserved or quiet during meetings or company activities.

7. Starts taking more personal calls.

Does the employee frequently leave meetings or their workspace to take personal calls? That phone call could be dealing with a family emergency or speaking with another employer.

Don’t make assumptions. But, if this become too frequent, it’s definitely a red flag that something is awry.

8. They were recently passed over for a promotion or raise.

Feeling frustrated, discouraged, and undervalued may motivate the employee to look for a job where they feel more appreciated.

9. Less interest in advancement.

Everyone strives for job advancement – remember, it makes them feel valued. If that goal no longer seems important to them then they’re probably looking for employment elsewhere.

10. Job stagnation.

Glassdoor has a great study. “Every additional 10 months an employee stagnates in a role makes them 1 percent more likely to leave the company. At that point they finally move on to their next position.”

11. They’ve had a major life change.

Major life changes mix things up. These include getting married, divorced, having children, taking care of a sick family member, or purchasing a home. Each of these situations can also influence whether an employee chooses to stay or leave.

For example, having a child may force them to look for a job that pays more money. Taking care of a loved one could make them look for jobs that they can do remotely.

12. Their productivity drops.

Has your normally productive, reliable, and punctual employee suddenly become less productive or dependable? Something else could be going on. “Any behavioral changes that point to “presenteeism” — the phenomenon of employees showing up at work without being fully present — are huge red flags,” says Michael Kerr, an international business speaker and author of The Humor Advantage.

13. Their work friends are jumping ship.

A study conducted in the UK, “57% of respondents said having a best friend in the office made their time at work more enjoyable. Almost a third stated they were more productive. One in five said it boosted their creativity.”

Six in ten employees stated that happiness was more valuable than salary. If one employee leaves their workplace, likely friends will be following them out the door. In some situations, the employee that left may even recruit their friend to join them at their new job.

14. They’re not interested in pleasing their supervisor.

Another behavioral change to pay attention to is if they employee is no longer interested in pleasing supervisors. If they previously stayed late or took work home with them and don’t do this now. This can be a big indicator.

15. There’s friction with another employee.

As noted earlier, workplace relationships are important. That’s why if you notice a toxic relationship brewing between employees there’s a good chance that one of them is going to walk.

16. They avoid social interactions.

Has the employee been avoiding social interaction with their supervisor or other team members of management more than usual? It’s another red sign that they’re ready to quit.

17. Delegating assignments to others.

Is one of your team member suddenly delegating their work to others? Unless this has been authorized from management, there’s a good chance they already have one foot out the door.

18. They’re not suggesting innovative ideas.

When an employee shares new helpful ideas or innovative approaches it’s a good sign that they’re engaged. It shows they want to be a valuable member of the organization.

Have they stop bringing-up any new ideas or suggestions? You can be certain that they’re no longer interested in the improvement of the company.

19. They’re taking longer breaks.

Breaks are essential – and required. If you notice that an employee is taking more frequent breaks or longer lunch breaks it’s another indication. They’re likely disengaged or may be spending that time having lunch meetings with potential employees.

20. Make exact arrivals and departures.

This is a pretty obvious sign if the employee would arrive early, leave late, or be a volunteer for an extra project in the past. Note if the employee arrives and leaves at an exact time or shows up chronically late. Note if they always leave early, you can be certain that they’re leaving.

21. They start complaining.

“If a typically happy and contented employee is suddenly complaining, take a closer look. Is the complaint about the employer, policies or management decisions? This is usually a sign that something is amiss.

A disengaged employee is likely seeking a new opportunity and may also be spreading discontent among others,” states the Employers of the North East.

22. They just received a degree, license, or certification.

Even worse? You weren’t even aware they were working on this. There are some cases when a worker has completed a degree and doesn’t say anything. Sometimes, obtaining a new accreditation is to become a more valuable member of the company.

However, this is normally a sign they’re making themselves more attractive for potential employers. After all, why would they invest the time and money to improve themselves when they’re stuck in their current position?

23. They’ve become secretive.

Are they exhibiting “secretive” behaviors at work? Do they block their computer screen? How about covering papers, or keeping their office door closed more than usual?

It could be because they’re surfing job sites or distancing themselves from everyone else.

24. They’ve stopped returning phone calls or emails.

“If one of your team members is contemplating resignation, they’re less likely to communicate often. Less emails, in person time, or just in general,” says Lynn Taylor. Taylor is a national workplace expert. She wrote the book, Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant: How to Manage Childish Boss Behavior and Thrive in Your Job.

Taylor adds,”The thinking is that, to the extent they’re less accessible, they won’t risk being put on the spot. Answering sensitive questions that could jeopardize their job when they’re not yet ready to move.

25. You’ve got a bad feeling.

Science has proven that “trusting your gut” isn’t a metaphor. If you’ve got a sinking suspicion that all is not well with an employee, there’s a good chance that you’re not wrong.

Tips on Preventing Employee Turnover and Improving Employee Retention

Being aware of the signs that someone is about to quit is only the first step. It’s up to you to prevent these behaviors from happening in the first place by:

  1. Selecting the right people for your organization from the get-go through behavior-based testing and competency screening. Make sure that also are good fit with your company’s culture.
  2. Hiring the smartest people you can find and allow them to wear multiple hats.
  3. Offering an attractive, competitive, comprehensive benefits and incentives package that includes components like life insurance, disability insurance, and flexible hours.
  4. Showing appreciation – even a handwritten “thank you” note is effective – and celebrating team wins.
  5. Providing opportunities for employees to share their knowledge -like writing company blog posts. Provide opportunities for career and personal growth through training and education.
  6. Making the workplace fun and safe – such as having company activities. Addressing any friction between employees before it escalates.
  7. Involving employees in making important decisions.
  8. Clearly communicating goals, roles, and responsibilities.
  9. Implementing an open-door policy.
  10. Encouraging employees to have friends at work.