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7 Warning Signs Your Employees are Thinking About Leaving

Creating a great team for your business is hard work. Hiring the right employees and combining everyone’s skill sets together into a productive powerhouse can take years of tinkering and forethought. After all that, the last thing any employer wants is to lose great team members, whether the reason is job dissatisfaction or personal issues.

Luckily, in most cases, employee departure can be divined early – and smart employers learn to recognize when their employees have begun looking for different options. In fact, entire books have been written on the subject. To get you up to speed quickly, here are 7 warning signs to watch out for.

1. A Sustained Heavy Workload

Many employers see the team members in their company working long hours to meet goals, taking on more and more responsibilities to get ahead in their careers. While this driving work ethic is admirable, it can also be a sign that your dream team is about to burn out.

Take a good look at how often your employees are doing this. Are all of them doing it? Have they been putting in an extra 10-15 hours a week for months on end?

In an article for LinkedIn, Dr. Travis Bradberry notes, “Overworking employees is also counterproductive. New research from Stanford shows that productivity per hour declines sharply when the workweek exceeds 50 hours, and productivity drops off so much after 55 hours that you don’t get anything out of working more.”

Not only will your employees feel burned out by working all those extra hours, they’ll also feel like they aren’t doing anything fulfilling. If they don’t feel like they’re being productive, chances are they will seek other employment for fulfillment.

It’s essential that you as a business leader learn to recognize and prevent burnout. Remember that the bottom line can’t come at the expense of good employees.

If an employee who brings a lot to the table is consistently working an excessive number of hours, cutting back on their output will make your team more sustainable in the long run. Maybe this involves cutting quarterly profits by a small margin, but keeping a good employee is always a financially smart decision, especially in light of the current cost of employee turnover. This in turn also affects the client relationships needed for good business.

2. A Decline in Good Work Habits

Some employees don’t have good work habits to begin with, but not your dream team employees – the ones you’ve worked so hard to acquire and nurture. A telltale sign your employees may be ready to jump ship is a decline in their good work habits – constantly being late, missing deadlines, and leaving early.

When you see these actions from normally reliable, hardworking employees, it’s a warning sign that they might be thinking their time and resources could be better used elsewhere.

The solution? On When I Work, Chad Halvorson writes, “It may be a good idea to give these types of employees something new to do. By including them on different types of projects or shifting them to other departments, you may be able to reinvigorate their commitment to the company.”

A change in perspective often is enough to remind your employees why they chose to work with you in the first place. This is also a way for you to demonstrate excellent leadership skills by listening to your workers and finding sustainable solutions for them.

3. Personal Problems

Personal problems come in many shapes and forms: a death in the family, a change in childcare availability, maternity leave, a devastating medical diagnosis, or a divorce or breakup, to name a few.

You must view employees’ personal problems as a reality that will occur at some point, just as you would evaluate the risk management of any other facet of your business. Every employee has a life outside of work, and an upheaval in an employee’s personal life can cause a shift in job priorities. You must be prepared to see this coming.

Luckily, techniques for effective leadership go hand-in-hand with the solution to this problem. Get to know your employees on a deeper level than “weather talk” and come up with short-term solutions that will take work stress down a notch so they can focus on life’s challenges.

Halvorson suggests, “If they have the opportunity to de-stress and take care of what’s happening in their lives off the clock, chances are they’ll be less prone to make rash decisions about their careers.” Essentially, invest in your employees, and they will be more likely to stay through the tough times.

4. Withdrawing from Social Interaction withdrawl.jpg

As a detective of early warning signs for employees quitting, you must notice changes in your employees’ social habits. Is a normally vocal employee uncharacteristically silent? Is a usually outgoing worker now withdrawn? Is an employee going to greater lengths to avoid conversation and social interaction?

Again, the solution to this problem is personal investment in your employees. If they are intent upon leaving, you may not be able to change their minds by having a good conversation, but you do at least have a chance to discover their intentions early on.

5. Declining to Accept Responsibility

Enthusiastically taking on challenges is what separates good employees from great employees. You know the ones in your company who you can rely on for anything, and you know exactly the type of character they have because of it. And that is the precise giveaway in some cases: a change in character.

Do you have a usually reliable employee who declines to accept responsibility? Do you throw an enticing project to a typically project-hungry all-star only to be rejected? Chances are, that employee is looking around, and maybe has already begun to work on side projects in the hopes that they will materialize into a full-time job.

As with several other warning signs, good, clear communication can oftentimes solve your problem. Perhaps your employee has a grievance that will surface in a good conversation. If they still choose not to stay, at the very least, having an honest talk will give you the most time to prepare for a replacement.

6. A Change in Scheduling

A change in daily habits can also be a warning sign of impending employee resignation. This could come in the form of an employee taking all their time off at once – most people tend to spread out their vacation at least a little bit – in order to use up any leftover vacation days.

It could also manifest itself in an employee coming in later and later or going home earlier and earlier, or showing up on the weekend and taking a Monday off. This is a signal that the employee is ready for a change, and a change in scheduling could be a precursor to a bigger, job-changing adjustment.

A good way to nip this problem in the bud is to offer flexible hours for your subordinates, if you have the kind of business that will allow it.

According to research from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, “Both formal and occasional use of flexibility are positively associated with perceived flexibility, employee engagement, and expected retention. These analyses provide evidence that workplace flexibility may enhance employee engagement, which may in turn lead to longer job tenure.”

Providing flexible work hours may be just what your employees need for sustainability.

Becoming a company with flexible hours does wonders for new hires, as well, which in turn increases sustainability. When this happens, blogger Lindsay Kolowich says, "First, everybody wants to work for your business. Number two: People, once they start working in this environment, never want to leave it. Three: Every single person knows exactly what they're supposed to deliver for the organization. People are truly happy."

If the opportunity to provide happiness can’t boost your retention, nothing will.

7. Attitude Change

A final way you can tell your employees are thinking of leaving is if you notice a change in attitude. This isn’t the same as a day-to-day mood swing or one bad business meeting, but rather a swift, 180 degree transition into something new. Many times, a change in your employees’ attitudes can mean they’ve been offered a job elsewhere or they are on the brink of quitting. A surge in apathy or a sudden shift to negativity is a sign that change is around the corner.

As usual, approach an employee’s sudden attitude change with a personal touch. Talk with that employee to see if there are areas you can address that would keep him or her from moving on.

Of course, don’t go too far: In the words of one entrepreneur, “Never fight for an employee who doesn't genuinely want to be at your company.” Your judgment as a business owner needs to serve you well in this regard.

What other warning signs have you noticed that indicate an employee is thinking of leaving? What steps did to take to get them to stay?

Images: Flickr, Pixabay

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