9 Warning Signs Your Employee Is Quitting

05/12/2015 10:51 am ET | Updated May 12, 2016


No matter the state of the economy, employee turnover is always an issue for employers, especially those in small businesses. Research has shown that people who are contemplating a job change are more likely to share company secrets or do things to sabotage the organization's goals.

For this reason, it's crucial for owners and managers to be able to recognize warning signs given off by employees planning to leave. Additionally, knowing the steps to take to keep staff happy is important for improving employee retention.

Warning Sign Behaviors

Associate professor Tim Gardner of Utah State University's Jon M. Huntsman School of Business conducted a study on voluntary employee turnover. In his study, Gardner discovered that the most common behavior in workers planning to quit was the act of disengaging in their workplace environment. Here are some behavioral changes that people made one to two months before quitting -- the findings may surprise you:

  • They provided less constructive contributions during meetings.
  • They hesitated to commit to long-term projects.
  • They lost interest in moving up within the organization.
  • They became less social while at work.
  • They showed less concern about pleasing supervisors.
  • They failed to suggest innovative ideas.
  • They started doing just enough work to scrape by without repercussions.
  • They lost interest in training programs.
  • Their level of productivity decreased.

According to Gardner, employees who exhibited six or more of these behaviors were on the verge of leaving their companies. He said of these actions, "As the grass starts to look greener on the other side of the fence...chances are that others will soon notice that you've lost your focus."

Preventing Turnover and Improving Employee Retention

While knowing the warning signs is certainly beneficial to you as an employer and can help your efforts to improve retention rates, it's only the first step. You must take action to prevent these behaviors from even starting. Here are some tips for improving employee satisfaction that will help you keep your staff members from leaving:

  1. Show appreciation. Employees who feel appreciated tend to stay with their companies longer. After all, it's human nature to want to be told when you're doing a good job. Simple actions go a long way when it comes to appreciation. Send a note thanking someone for help on a project, buy your employee a small gift card, or take well-deserved staff members to lunch.
  2. Have an open-door policy. Sometimes employees feel compelled to quit because of a bad experience or situation with a coworker. Let your staff know that your door is always open and that you will listen to problems with an open mind, and then take action to solve any issues.
  3. Provide sufficient training. Research has shown that turnover is highest within the first 90 days of employment -- the training period. When an employee doesn't get adequate training, he or she won't feel confident in his/her abilities to complete the tasks necessary to the job at hand. This leads to a desire in the team member to leave and find a better fit.

These are just a few ways to increase employee satisfaction -- a starting off point, if you will. Give them a try and watch your retention rates soar.

Margaret Jacoby, SPHR, is the founder and president of MJ Management Solutions, a human resources consulting firm that provides small businesses with a wide range of virtual and onsite HR solutions to meet their immediate and long-term needs. From ensuring legal compliance to writing customized employee handbooks to conducting sexual harassment training, businesses depend on our expertise and cost-effective human resources services to help them thrive. This article first appeared on the MJ Management Solutions blog.

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