Most bosses are caught off guard when facing a mass employee exodus, and the same can happen when just one valued employee resigns.
“As the boss, it’s important to watch for the symptoms of an impending departure,” says Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert and the author of “Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant: How to Manage Childish Boss Behaviour and Thrive in Your Job.” “Losing even one valued employee can disrupt your business, not to mention losing several team members. And if you’re running a small company or startup, these losses can destroy your business.”
Here are nine signs you should watch out for so you can act before it’s too late:
1. There's a change in their appearance
If they start dressing unusually sharply, it may be because they are slipping out to job interviews during or after work, says Michael Kerr, an international business speaker and author of 'The Humour Advantage.'
'Also, if someone is unhappy in their job, they may begin to dress down because they feel that no one is really paying attention anyway -- or because they just don't really care anymore,' adds Taylor.
2. They start taking more time off
They begin calling in sick more often, or using up their vacation days sporadically, which may mean they are feeling very disengaged at work, possibly even to the point of using the time off to search for other employment, says Kerr.
'And using up their sick days and vacation time (and even getting a lot of dental work done suddenly) might be a red flag that they are getting ready to jump ship and want to make sure they max out any benefits they feel owed to them.'
3. They lack a sense of humour
Employees who are about to bail may no longer joke around, says Taylor. 'Their demeanour is more straightforward and factual versus friendly and lighthearted. Perhaps this is because they're less worried about appearing supportive or trying to impress anyone.'
4. There are changes in their behaviour
If they are acting differently -- maybe they're suddenly keeping to themselves more and more, or they begin going out to lunch with coworkers every day -- the employee(s) may be pulling away from work or commiserating with colleagues.
'If a group of team members who rarely went to lunch together before are now doing so, they may be discussing their plans to move on,' says Taylor. 'Seeing new behaviour in who goes to lunch and how often, however, is certainly no cause for concern if other signs are not evident.'
5. Their productivity drops
If your employees are suddenly late getting reports in, or their sales have fallen enough that it seems unusual, something might be going on. 'Any behavioural changes that point to 'presenteeism' -- the phenomenon of employees showing up at work without being fully present -- are huge red flags,' says Kerr.
6. They're uncomfortable discussing long-term projects and deadlines
If your employees are seeking greener pastures, they will become visibly uncomfortable discussing projects that are several months out, says Taylor. 'When longer-term deadlines involve them directly, they will attempt to be noncommittal or vague.'
7. Colleagues tell you they think something's going on
If your coworkers approach you with concerns that something's changed or 'something's going on' with a specific employee or group of people, they may be on to something.
'Other colleagues closer to the action may read the signs well before you do, so if they bring concerns forward, pay attention,' says Kerr.
8. Their schedule suddenly changes
When they start keeping unusual hours -- working later, arriving late, shifting their hours in any noticeable way -- it could be because they are searching for work or interviewing with other employers while still trying to balance their current workload, says Kerr.
9. You have a bad gut feeling
If you feel awkward moments in your office more often or a discomfort around your team you can't explain, this may be a sign they're about to quit. 'Your instincts count for a lot and most people don't put enough stock in them; instead, they second-guess themselves.'
Trust your gut. There's a good chance it's right.
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