13 Ways To Tell if Someone is About to Quit

One of the most stressful things a manager must deal with is having a star employee quit—particularly if no one saw it coming.  Moral tends to drop after the resignation of a key team member, and trying to find a replacement quickly can prove difficult given the high demand for top talent (particularly in tech). The end result is a rushed recruitment process, and sometimes, a bad hire.

You may think you know if someone is about to quit if they suddenly have more “doctor appointments” and start wearing dressier attire. But research shows, that these factors are not a consistent indicator of when a person is actually going to quit. HBR conducted a study to help managers and companies identify employees at risk of quitting, and in their research, uncovered a set of behaviours exhibited by employees that are strong predictors of voluntary quits.

There are 13 of these ‘pre-quitting’ behaviours. The stronger the statement is true, and the more statements are true, the higher the likelihood that the employee will quit in the next 12 months.

  1. Their work productivity has decreased more than usual.

  2. They have acted less like a team player than usual.

  3. They have been doing the minimum amount of work more frequently than usual.

  4. They have been less interested in pleasing their manager than usual.

  5. They have been less willing to commit to long-term timelines than usual.

  6. They have exhibited a negative change in attitude.

  7. They have exhibited less effort and work motivation than usual.

  8. They have exhibited less focus on job related matters than usual.

  9. They have expressed dissatisfaction with their current job more frequently than usual.

  10. They have expressed dissatisfaction with their supervisor more frequently than usual.

  11. They have left early from work more frequently than usual.

  12. They have lost enthusiasm for the mission of the organisation.

  13. They have shown less interest in working with customers than usual.

What do you do if you think one of your employees is about to quit?  It depends if you want them to or not.  For high performing employees that you want to stay, HBR advises to focus on keeping them for the short term. Typically, organisations handle a turnover problem with large scale interventions to improve job engagement. These strategies may work, but they take time to design and implement. So give them something that will provide an immediate positive impact to their day-to-day work life—pay increases, promotions, special projects, etc.  You could also give them a “stay interview.”  Instead of conducting only exit interviews to learn what caused good employees to quit, hold regular one-on-one interviews with current high-performing employees to learn what keeps motivated, and what could be changed to keep them from straying.

If you are looking for a new job, hiding your own pre-quitting behaviours may be difficult. Feigning enthusiasm is nearly impossible. And the shift you feel when you know you want to leave may mean that you are acting differently, even when you think you are not. HBR suggests that you stay engaged with your work as much as you can and keep your relational energy the same. (Not sure what relational energy is? Read more here.) If you are certain you want to leave, then it is best to move quickly.  Call a specialist recruitment firm in you field to find out what is currently available.

Eventually, all employees quit for one reason or another, but hopefully by being able to see the signs before they actually do, organisations can act to keep their star players.

About Oliver Parks

Oliver Parks Consulting offers search-based recruitment solutions to the technology sector, specialising in the ERP, CRM, CMS, ECM, BI and Open Source Technology spaces. The firm’s multilingual consultants operate in narrowly-defined niche market segments, enabling them to gain extensive knowledge of the people and companies operating in each technology.  Oliver Parks has a proven track-record with more than 100,000 candidates worldwide and more than 300 clients globally.