If you’ve been in the workforce for any length of time, it’s happened to you as the owner, manager, or even as a co-worker.
Joe or Jane seem like solid employees, they’re beginning to fit in, or possibly, they’ve been at the company for years.
Suddenly, it’s adios time, and as an owner or manager, you wonder: How did I miss the exit signs?
In recent times, I’ve been witness to sudden employee exits in companies with which I’m familiar. As an outsider looking in, I wondered: Did the company have any sense the employee was going to leave? Certainly, foreknowledge allows the company to deal with the issue on a more orderly basis. Not all departures are necessarily disruptive, even if they’re abrupt. However, if the person is a key employee, it can have major negative consequences, especially if the timing of the departure is inconvenient or calamitous.
How do you wrap your hands around a crystal ball that will at least give you a foreshadowing of a departure? With that in mind, I reached out to industry experts and observers who offered sage advice.
When you ponder your team, you might want to check the suggestions below to see if they fit your circumstances.
A Roberta Matuson Perspective
Nine out of 10 times, the writing is on the wall when an employee is about to bolt. There are a number of signs. Here are three.
- The employee who used to work through lunch at his desk is now taking extended lunches outside the office.
- The person who used to volunteer to work on long-term projects is no longer raising her hand.
- The employee who used to provide you with constructive feedback when receiving work now takes the assignment and does only what you ask.
When you see the signs, don’t ignore them. Ask the employee how things are going and what, if anything, you can do to make their work experience better.
Roberta Matuson, president, Matuson Consulting (www.matusonconsulting.com), is known as The Talent Maximizer®. She is the author of the forthcoming book, "The Magnetic Leader," as well as "Talent Magnetism," and "Suddenly in Charge: Managing Up, Managing Down, Succeeding All Around." She is the former HR Careers Expert for Monster.com.
A Scott Lesizza Perspective
I’ve learned the hard way (after key employees left) how to spot the now obvious signs that an employee was going to leave.
We had a number of employees all leave the company simultaneously in February 2016 (a clear red flag in and of itself), and each of them had spent an inordinate amount of time asking our chief financial officer about their bonuses and expense reimbursements. Seems obvious now but so often we let down our guard as owners because we tend to feel we treat employees extremely well and create great places to work. It’s important always to have someone you trust and who you can lean on to know what your employees are saying when you leave the room — and always be wary when employees are asking a lot of questions about bonuses and expenses.
Another clear sign is when employees start making excuses. If employees start to point fingers or blame infrastructure or “lack of support” for falling short in achievements, be careful. These employees will start seeing the grass is greener elsewhere and will start looking for another job where there is supposedly more “support.”
When employees begin to withdraw from company social events, they are probably heading for the door. People will instinctively start to feel bad for spending quality time with employees knowing they are heading for the door. There might be no clearer sign than this.
If you have an open-door policy, but an employee suddenly stops taking advantage of it, there is a good chance that he or she is leaving. I encourage my employees to speak their minds, and most take advantage of it. When one of them who has typically been vocal stops popping into my office, even if to shoot the breeze, there is a reason. Again, there is a psychological basis for this. If an employee has a conscience, they are not going to feel comfortable laughing and joking with you (or asking for advice), then giving their two weeks notice the next day. Although I admit, I’ve had surprises in the past.
Use your gut and get out of your office. Although everyone gets caught off-guard, there are always red flags, sometimes right in front of our face. We either refuse to see the red flags or we don’t engage enough with our employees to see them. If you are engaged and something feels off, it usually is.
Scott Lesizza is a principal at Workwell Partners, a provider of workspace furnishing solutions. Workwell Partners specializes in creating efficient spaces for clients that enhance productivity and collaboration by providing full-service solutions from design, renderings, specification, project management, installation, and reconfiguration.
A Diane Dye Hansen Perspective
I am a business and career coach who specializes in individual and organizational change. That means I coach on both sides of the line. I work with the career changers and the companies that want to build a retention-based culture.
From my research and client case studies, here is how you can tell an employee is about to leave. These are my top 12 signs.
- They aren’t proactive, don’t take the initiative.
- They stop volunteering for new projects.
- They isolate from co-workers.
- They buddy up with other unsatisfied co-workers.
- You notice they are on social media more at work. (Likely job hunting on your dime.)
- Their lunches get longer, by a few minutes here and there, or they might have car problems for an even longer absence. (Lunch time interview)
- They ask to leave early more frequently. (Late day interview)
- They start using their sick days one at a time. (Using the benefit of several interviews in a day)
- They break eye contact – a sign they are holding something back;
- They become more vocal about their grievances;
- They clam up totally, and everything is fine, no matter what.
- They bolt out the door at the end of the workday.
An employer can always probe by showing a genuine empathetic concern for their employee’s happiness. Issues of hours, working arrangements or co-worker head butting can be resolved this way. Personal issues such as family and home life can also be worked through if the supervisor makes the communication space safe. This means no fixing on the part of the supervisor, just support. It also means the conversation does not leave the office.
Diane Dye Hansen, Chief Inspiration Officer, Individual and Organizational Change Expert, www.whatworkscoaching.com.