Employers who watch their people like hawks probably end up hounding them out of the door permanently; but there are some tell-tale signs of unhappiness well before the resignation letter and the empty desk that you need to be observant of.
Learning to spot signs that someone is about to exit stage left may be able to help you salvage the situation and avoid a talent drain on your business, as well as the nasty knock-on effects that can damage team morale and overall performance.
Here are four of the key indicators:
Performance Drop Off
OK, it’s an obvious one to start with. But it’s amazing how many businesses fail to really monitor their team members’ performances closely enough to notice when they take a dip. This is part of the reason why it’s important to be across the performance indicators, to hold regular reviews and to engage with employees to understand what’s going through their heads; management shouldn’t assume they know what their team is doing just from raw results. Some people can achieve the bare minimum results while chugging along on auto-pilot – it doesn’t mean they care!
Unquestioning Agreement and Compliance
Unless you have a work environment where everybody agrees with what the boss says (which creates its own problems in itself!) then when an employee is constantly in agreement, it’s probably an indication that something’s wrong; engaged employees should be active in discussions, challenge and ask questions, rather than totally compliant. Naturally some people are more laid back than others, and it will depend on the individual, but it’s worth picking up on your radar if someone has been uncharacteristically quiet or unquestioning for a while; they may have developed an “I just don’t care anymore” attitude or, if not, most will appreciate you noticing and asking the question in any case.
Attendance and Focus Issues
Another obvious one…or is it? Employees don’t have to be missing days at work for their minds to be out of the door. Just doing the bare minimum to get by is another sign; never staying back or getting in early to finish a task may be a sign if, in the past, they have led the way with putting in the extra yards. Long lunch breaks can easily be used for interviews too; and, if they are more worried about messages on their phone or their LinkedIn profiles, it’s another possible sign of planning an escape. If any of these become enduring habits, then it’s time for a chat.
Employees may drop off on the social side of things with their colleagues, because they are looking for a way out and may already be gravitating towards a new group. Observing social engagement levels can reveal a lot and if they appear disengaged from fellow employees it might be worth asking why.
Of course, it’s possible to maintain a professional outlook even when mentally divorced from an organization; it’s also possible to be content in your job but going through a rough patch personally that makes you look disengaged and no longer interested in work life. As a leader it’s up to you to delve beneath the surface and get to the truth, which is not always easy in a busy workday.
Suspecting that an employee may be ready to fold his deck of cards with your organization is not a time to become stressed, upset, hurt, paranoid or accusatory.
This is precisely the time to display your leadership and sit down with them, to find out what the real situation is; then, if he or she confirms your fears, work through it and see if you can reignite the spark, if that’s what you both want.