I usually write articles from the perspective of the person looking for a new job. Well, this piece is going to be a little different. The information that I have learned about job seekers over the years could help managers look out for certain signs that indicate an employee is unhappy and searching for a new opportunity.
By noticing these sometimes subtle and other times blatant signs, you could intercede before it’s too late. You don’t necessarily have to call out the person and confront them about sending out their résumé and going on interviews. You could use the tell-tale signs as a way to initiate a healthy conversation with the person to ascertain why they are seeking a new opportunity. If you really want the person to stay, you could then find ways to improve his or her situation at work and address any issues the person may have. By noticing these activities, you could help a star employee remain at the company and thrive.
1. Pay close attention to an employee’s appearance. Usually, an obvious sign is when they start wearing new suits, flattering and stylish outfits, sporting fresh haircuts and other accoutrements suggesting that they may be trying to impress someone at an interview.
2. Sometimes it is the opposite of what you’d expect. If a person has become discouraged in their job and feels neglected, their appearance will reflect it. They may start dressing more informally and pay less attention to grooming. These signs—often missed—reflect that the person has stopped caring and is giving up.
3. Is there someone in your group that has demonstrated a pattern of showing up late to work? Have they started to take an unusual amount of sick days? Do they disappear during the day? Could you not find them toward the end of the day? These could be signs that either they are interviewing or have become apathetic toward their job. The absence or lateness could be a reaction to feeling unhappy and dissatisfied and they are finding it increasingly hard to get into the office and accomplish their work.
4. Do you have an employee who was once considered a star, but now is not? When you start to notice a drop in production, involvement and interest in their job, it is a warning sign. It may be that they feel bored or unappreciated. This could be represented in someone apathetically going through the motions. It looks like they are doing their job, but they are are not mentally or emotionally present. They become more reserved, withdraw from polite interoffice conversations and don’t volunteer for new assignments. It could be confusing, as they will most likely do a capable job, but not anything above and beyond.
5. If you have a great member of your team and they start acting a little funny, you should take a look. It could be that they are acting a little guilty. The person may look over to you to see how you are observing them. The employee may avert direct eye contact and purposefully avoid any contact with you since they feel uncomfortable. They may over explain where they are going, even when it’s not to an interview. The person may actually work a little harder and tell you about all of their efforts and achievements—since they feel badly that they are seeking a new job behind your back.
6. Their mood shifts pretty quickly. Have you noticed that a person is having a lot of trouble with everything? Their interactions with co-workers are awkward and strained. They are rude to customers. You notice that they are abrupt with the people around them. They are starting to complain about everything. They don’t contribute any new ideas and criticize everything that the others do and say. They bicker with colleagues, roll their eyes in meetings, mumble under their breath, break into an obvious instant messaging and email rant after a conversation with someone in the office. It seems that they are just looking for a fight or an excuse to quit and storm out.
7. Sometimes there are signs that are contrary to what you’d expect. For example, a person may start coming into the office happier. Ordinarily, this would be perceived as a good thing. It’s either done purposely to throw you off their trail or the person actually feels better knowing that they’ve made the decision to move on. The person is happier now that they have decided to leave and it’s a great weight off their shoulders.
8. Is the person just phoning it in? Are they doing the bare minimum to get by? If you have a person who never really worked that hard to begin with, it may be difficult to tell. If the person was a star, but now slow to finish assignments, not meeting deadlines, making stupid mistakes and not caring about about their work, then there is a problem. It is especially acute if you bring it up to the person and they don’t seem to care at all.
9. Is the person finding ways to get out of accepting new assignments? Are they coming up with excuses not to schedule certain trips slated for the future? Are they suggesting that their work be given to someone else with dubious reasons? This could indicate that they have something locked up and don’t want to put you in a worse situation by having work not done within the necessary deadlines. They may feel that they are actually helping you out by having someone else in the office get used to the work and take it over after they leave for a new job.
By noticing these and other warning signs, you can intervene before it’s too late and the person leaves. You can do your best to keep them—if that’s what you want—as there may be times that you’ll be relieved when the person is gone.