5 Signs an Employee Is About to Quit — And What to Do About It

There behavior changes are tip-offs you shouldn't ignore.
To make sure all employees are satisfied, it is a good idea to meet with each employee regularly. (Photo: moo_born/Shutterstock)
To make sure all employees are satisfied, it is a good idea to meet with each employee regularly. (Photo: moo_born/Shutterstock)


When an employee quits, you may feel blindsided. But the truth is, before he handed you his resignation letter, he may have been giving you hints he was leaving.

Next time, look for these five behavior changes so you can intervene before it’s too late. Then take smart steps to keep that employee — and all your most valuable employees — in the fold.

Michael Molina

“If the employee can see a future for themselves at your company, they’ll stay.” -Michael Molina (Photo: Michael Molina)

Sign 1: They become less engaged and energized

Lack of participation and commitment is often one of the first signs of discontent according to Michael Molina, chief human resource officer at Vistage Worldwide, a leadership training and executive coaching organization.

He recommended asking yourself these questions about every employee: “Are they all in at work? Do they appear to be inspired? Do they participate in meetings? Are they as interested as they

were the first day on the job?” If the answer to one or more of these questions is “no,” your staffer might have one foot out the door.

Also take note of how employees act when they show up to work every day. Happy staffers talk with their colleagues and show energy, he said.

Sign 2: They’re late or slow to respond

When a usually on­-time worker begins coming in late or an employee becomes less responsive to requests and emails, take heed, warned Laura MacLeod, a human resources consultant who created From the Inside Out Project, which aims to improve workplace communication for clients in hospitality, retail and banking.

Laura MacLeod

Laura MacLeod created “From the Inside Out Project,” which aims to improve workplace communication.

Sign 3: They stop trying to please

New hires are especially alert and eager to please their managers, said Liz Jackson, Networking Manager at Built for Teams, an HR software solution for small and medium­-size businesses. The same goes for employees looking to get raises, promotions or other recognition of a job well done.

By contrast, workers who have made up their minds to find a new job aren’t hungry for approval, and their lack of concern may become noticeable.

Sign 4: They get sloppy

“Once an employee has decided to leave, they immediately feel less invested in their job, Jackson said. “Any reviews of their work aren’t going to matter, and they won’t have to answer to problems that arise from any mistakes.” The result is that while some people take pride in what they do until their very last day, others become nonchalant and careless, according to Jackson. “This can cost the company.”

Brandi Britton, district president of OfficeTeam, a staffing agency, notes some people may get forgetful about deadlines, meetings and appointments.

Sign 5: They start taking more time off and/or dressing up

Liz Jackson

One sign that an employee is thinking about leaving is when they seem less inclined to please their managers says Liz Jackson, a Networking Manager at Built for Teams.(Photo: Liz Jackson)

If an employee suddenly starts taking long lunch breaks or requesting personal days, he or she may be going on interviews according to Britton. “And if a professional who typically wears business casual attire suddenly dons suits, he or she may be dressing up for interviews.”

How to intervene

In you suspect your best employee is on his or her way out or looking for other prospects, take action. Start by finding out why they’re unhappy. Some employees may be seeking a higher salary, while others could be looking for more fulfilling tasks or a better work­-life balance. “Offering a salary bump may not address the root problems,” Britton said.

Cindy Ventrice, author of “Make Their Day! Employee Recognition That Works,” recommended conducting a “stay interview.” “Learn what they like and dislike about their work. Acknowledge the value they bring to the team. Discuss new opportunities that you can provide.”

Keeping turnover low

If you’re experiencing high staff turnover, it may be time to do an honest self­-assessment of your work environment. Seek feedback from employees on what can be improved and how you can be a better manager, Molina advised.

You may also consider instituting peer recognition programs, awards, tuition reimbursement and more flexible work hours to create an appealing company culture and a work environment that helps employees do their best.

It’s smart to meet with each employee regularly, even if it’s for 15 minutes. “Managers who do this routinely have far less turnover,” Ventice said.

Molina summed up his employee retention advice this way: “Nothing replaces meaningful work, the connection a manager has with the employee and ongoing feedback loops. If the employee can see a future for themselves at your company, they’ll stay.”

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