While on a call with a client today, it appeared to her I was distracted and a bit down. In her follow up email, she wondered if I was OK, feeling negative about our relationship or wanting to terminate the contract. In a quick, short email, I let her know that a 7-year struggle with a narcissistic family had ended abruptly Monday afternoon, and although I was distracted it was in no way an indication that I was not happy or quitting altogether.

Employers should not take an occasional bout of frustration as someone who is on the brink of quitting. However, there are telltale signs that one is about to exit and already has one foot out the door. Oddly, when I was managing an office, I thought it would be beneficial for our general manager to know inside information about employees who were contemplating quitting, but I was wrong. Sharing such information is looked at as gossip and adds unneeded stress as it might or might not happen. So, if you are in middle management, this type of information warrants a discussion between you and those above you.

In general, according to research by SHRM, there are 13 signs that an employee is about to quit. In this research, there were actually 116 behaviors indicating a resignation, but most were eliminated from the list as they weren’t regularly exhibited. The behaviors that did make the cut were:

  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 organization.

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

In addition, “The most interesting takeaway from the second phase of this research were the behaviors that did not survive our screening process. Note that the 13 key behaviors do not include "wearing dressier clothes to work," "leaving a resume on the printer," or "missing work for doctors' appointments more frequently than usual’.”

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Never in my 17 years of staffing did I see a purposefully made “mistake” as mentioned above, but the behaviors in the list have been observed multiple times. Although listed as number 4, exhibiting less interest in pleasing their manager is the number 1 behavior I have noticed in those who later turned in their resignation.

If you see signs of someone quitting, do you try to retain them or just let them go? Are they quitting because they are really unhappy and if so, is retaining them in your best interest? How do you talk to someone you think might be quitting? It certainly is not a fun or fluffy conversation, but one that is necessary. Finding out why they are quitting is necessary in case there is something within the organization that requires attention, but if there is a better opportunity elsewhere for the employee, there is simply nothing that can be done beyond a counteroffer. But that is another column topic . . .

Kristen Asleson is owner of Midwest Virtual Assistants. Send comments and ideas to news@postbulletin.com.