It can be difficult to concentrate when your boss seems to have lost interest in their job, the company, and maybe even you.
“If you feel as if your manager has ‘checked out,’ it’s a natural reaction to want to know why,” says Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert, leadership coach, and author of “Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant.”
“Now it’s time to put the puzzle together to evaluate whether they may have one foot out the door.”
She says if you suspect your boss is about to quit and you remain vigilant, the signs will become increasingly apparent.
“The behaviours are far different if your manager is not performing to par and is trying to preempt termination, versus wanting to leave for greener pastures. But the common denominator, regardless of the reason for the impending departure, is a change in routine.”
It’s important to pay attention because your boss’s job status can link to your own job security and affect your career — for better or worse.
Here are 17 signs your boss is about to jump ship:
There are changes in patterns and behaviour.
This is a noticeable theme among many of the signs that your boss is about to bolt, Taylor says. 'Nothing is consistent with past behaviour. Your boss used to be friendly, now they're in virtual lock-down. Your boss used to be Mr. Introvert, and now acts like he's just won the state lottery. They may become suddenly apathetic or very intense. Much depends on whether they must scramble for a new job -- or are relieved they finally found a way out.'
There's been a reorganization.
If your company has reorganized or downsized, your boss may quit because they see the writing on the wall, Taylor says. 'They may leave before a layoff, or the event may exacerbate the fact that their job was already at risk.'
You notice a shift in intensity.
If your boss feels comfortable about an impending new job, he or she is more likely to be lax about upcoming deadlines, she explains.
They take a lot of vacation time or PTO.
'If your boss who never took a lunch is suddenly taking a lot of personal time off, it might mean they're planning to quit,' she says. 'They need this uninterrupted time for their job search where their every move isn't scrutinised. They may also be taking all the PTO or vacation time they're owed before they announce their resignation.'
They are suddenly evasive.
It seems your once-communicative boss is short on words, eye contact, and meeting time. 'They won't spend more time than necessary with you because it could jeopardize their career if they confide in you,' Taylor says.
They ask you a lot of 'what if' questions.
Your boss asking you a litany of hypothetical questions is a sign they're on their way out.
'They may actually be fishing to see whether they'd be able to recruit you to their next job,' she says. 'They may ask about your future plans; whether you have an interest in a change of duties; relocation; etc.'
They complain a lot.
If your boss suddenly seems to have a lot of complaints about the CEO, or the culture, or anything else going on at your company, they might be ready to leave.
'They might tell you about their mistreatment or delve into some of the politics they're facing, making you wonder if you really even want their job,' Taylor explains.
They have lost power.
Another big sign: Your boss seems less powerful than before. 'They don't seem to have as many answers, and it's harder for you to push projects forward as a team,' says Taylor.
When someone loses power, they often lose interest ... which can drive them to move on.
There's a change in their appearance.
Another dead giveaway is 'sudden suit syndrome,' she says. If your boss usually shows up to work in jeans and a polo, and he's now wearing a suit once a week, there's a good chance he's going on job interviews.
Another sign: The boss who usually gets dressed up suddenly starts dressing down. If it looks like they have 'given up' and stopped caring about their looks, it could be because they have given up on, and stopped caring about the job.
They are less present.
If your boss's disappearances rival Houdini's, then it's plausible that he or she may be checking out. 'Bosses who are on the verge of quitting are less accountable to everyone,' Taylor says. 'You don't know when they're coming or going; they seem to sneak in and out (mostly out, especially when you need them); their lunches are at odd times; and you feel like you're herding cats to meet them, while they're out interviewing.'
They look 'guilty.'
A boss who is ready to leave for good will have the 'hands in the cookie jar' look when you catch them unexpectedly, she says. 'They may have just made or taken a call, text, email or LinkedIn message relating to another job.'
They become very secretive.
Has your boss been clicking out of a computer screen every time you walk by? Do they suddenly shut their office door every time their phone rings? If so, they could be trying to hide their job search from you.
They make changes to their desk appearance.
Your boss's desk used to be buried under files and clutter. These days, there's next to nothing on it. 'This could mean they have already checked out,' says Taylor. 'Conversely, your OCD boss has now left everything conceivable on their desk because they no longer care. Either way, change is in the air -- that is, an office without your boss.'
Another sign is a sudden disappearance of personal items from their desk. 'Two
weeks ago, there were a dozen family pictures and tiny cactus plants scattered all over your boss's desk space -- but everything has gradually disappeared, and maybe your boss is next. Departing managers don't want you to see a sudden house cleaning, so this is more of a gradual undertaking.'
They stop mentoring you or engaging with others.
Earlier, your boss took an interest in mentoring you, being on the social committee, or engaging in activities outside of the office, she says. 'Now, they have announced that due to other 'conflicts,' they must stop. This is probably because your boss needs to slowly unravel ties.'
They give you more work.
Managers may gradually pile on more work so that there will be less of a disruption when they leave, she explains. 'In effect, they're grooming you for more advanced opportunity so this can be a positive sign. You're being told indirectly that your job looks secure at the very least.'
They have been meeting with the higher-ups more frequently.
If your boss has been meeting with their manager or other higher-ups more often lately, it could be a sign they're quitting. It could also mean they're about to be promoted or transferred -- but if you notice this sign in addition to others, there's a good chance they're talking to those people about their upcoming departure.
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