A close-up of an employee holding a box of their things from their desk because they have just quit their job.
Image: © Viacheslav Iakobchuk/Stock.adobe.com

5 signs an employee may be about to quit

23 Apr 2019

Do you have a bad feeling one of your employees might be on the way out? Here’s how to spot the signs – and what you can do about it.

It’s natural that, as a manager, you will see employees move on to bigger and better things from time to time, but it can still be a cause for concern. If you had known one of your best and brightest was thinking about leaving, could you have done something to hold on to them?

Some departures can blindside you, while others are natural and can’t be prevented. However, if you have an inkling about them in advance, it can often help improve staff retention. You may even uncover a problem that is causing more than one person to feel unhappy.

But before you can go about fixing a problem, you need to know if someone’s about to quit. Without stalking them, there are a few subtle signs you may notice that could tell you someone is thinking about heading for the door.

Less forward-planning

If someone has started looking elsewhere, they quite possibly have an internal deadline of when they hope to be gone by. That means certain forward-planning tasks or strategies may make them feel a little uncomfortable.

Depending how far along they are in looking for other jobs, they might have even started figuring out when they would hand in their notice if they got this job or what projects they wouldn’t be around for.

Good employees never want to shirk responsibility of course, but if you’re starting to sense a low-level reluctance to discuss future strategies, it might set off alarm bells.

A sudden increase in LinkedIn activity

This one should be taken with a pinch of salt. There are plenty of reasons why a person might improve their LinkedIn profile. As a matter of fact, if your employees are known for updating their LinkedIn, this might not be a sign of anything.

But for those who leave it sitting there from one end of the year to the next, a sudden surge in LinkedIn activity could be a sign that they’re looking to engage with recruiters, other companies and jobs.

A drop in productivity

Your once motivated and energised employee might suddenly have become lethargic in recent weeks. This isn’t even necessarily a case of work ethic slipping or missing deadlines. Like I said, good employees don’t let their work suffer even when they are looking to quit.

However, there will naturally be a drop in their productivity levels as they may have become less motivated and engaged in the role. Even if they’re relatively happy, looking at what may be on offer elsewhere will make them less focused on their current job and more excited about the future.

It’s important to note that this lag in their productivity is not something they should be reprimanded for. If they’re still meeting their targets and you’ve no other reason to complain about their work other than being suspicious that they may quit, this is not a reason to give out but rather another sign that they may need to be checked in on.

Disengaged in meetings

Meetings are often a hive of engagement. When done right, they can be great brainstorming sessions and a place for employees to raise concerns, share ideas and make suggestions.

But those who are already thinking that they won’t be in the company for much longer are naturally less likely to engage in these sessions. Without meaning to come across as disinterested, certain elements that would affect them more if they were going to be around for a long time will suddenly matter less to them.

If you notice someone who is usually particularly engaged during meetings has suddenly become quite silent, it might be a sign that they’ve become disengaged with the entire job.

Unusually negative attitude

As with all of the signs that someone may be about to quit, the keyword here is ‘unusual’. We can all have a bad day and we can all have particular pet peeves that never fail to send us into a negative rant.

However, if you notice someone’s attitude has suddenly turned quite negative, especially about work, it might be a signal that they want to leave.

While all of these signs could help a manager identify who might be thinking of quitting, they can also be signs of unhappiness about particular elements of the job. Has their workload increased? Is it a particularly busy time?

Equally, something outside of work could be affecting them and it might have nothing to do with a desire to quit. But these are still signs that an employee deserves a compassionate check-in. They may not be looking for their exit strategy just yet but if left to fester, they could start.

If you are a manager, you have a duty of care to your employees. You should keep an eye on their wellbeing, not just because it affects your staff retention or business outputs, but because they are your colleagues and if something is making them unhappy and it can be remedied or helped in any way, you should try to address it in the best way that you can.

Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody became the editor of Silicon Republic in 2023, having worked as the deputy editor since February 2020. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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