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Although no manager can predict an employee’s pending resignation with total accuracy, there are signs that send up potential red flags. Watch for certain behavior patterns. By detecting them early, you can get to the bottom of them and be proactive in taking your next step.

What to Look For

If an employee begins acting out of character, it’s a manager’s responsibility to learn the reasons why – whether or not the answer lies in a possible break from employment. Signs include:

  • Downturns in attitude, motivation or performance. A former top performer may begin turning in mediocre work, stop volunteering for new projects or perform only basic mandatory tasks. You may even hear negative feedback from clients or other team members that deliverables are not on schedule.
  • Tardiness or absence. If an employee already has one foot mentally out the door, they may begin leaving work earlier, coming in later, taking extended breaks or calling in sick.
  • Taking vacation time during critical business periods. If your top accountant schedules a cruise during the peak of tax season, the writing is on the wall that they want to avoid doing hard work or putting in long hours just before leaving.
  • Isolation at work. Team members who used to be just that – team oriented – may begin to eat lunch alone or stop taking part in group activities. This can be traced to the fact that they see no point in continuing to build relationships if they don’t plan to stay.
  • Frequent venting of frustrations. A flight-risk employee may complain more often or frequently appear irritated or frustrated while at work. This is a reflection of not only their discontent, but possibly also of the stress related to keeping their job hunt under wraps.
  • Bursts of job-related activity on social networks. If an employee suddenly begins joining a large number of job groups and connecting with recruiters, this could be a sign of restlessness. But be careful before you jump to a conclusion: They could simply want to know their value in the marketplace, especially if it’s close to performance appraisal time.
  • Sudden pay raise demand. Requests for raises typically occur during appraisal periods or when job responsibilities are increased. If such a demand is made outside these times, chances of a job offer are high.
  • High-volume copying. Departing employees may be seen running high volumes of paper copies or there could be a surge in related network activity. This can be difficult to detect, but if you have sound system security policies, it is doable.

Other indications of a pending resignation may include a decline in creativity or energy levels, a loss of enthusiasm or participation in team meetings or an unusual level of quietness. An employee pondering a possible departure may be physically visible, yet “not there” when it comes to contribution or teamwork.

A Word of Caution

There could be numerous reasons for unusual behavior on the part of an employee. Personal problems such as health issues or financial stress could be weighing heavily on them. Another possibility is work-related anxiety triggered by such stressors as co-worker conflict, deadline pressures or an overwhelming work schedule.

Your first step in addressing a possible resignation is to find out if that’s what you’re actually facing. Evaluate your employee’s well-being. Listen carefully and find the root cause of the situation. Then you can move forward from there.

Always Be Recruiting

Inevitably, employees will resign. The best way to manage departures is to be prepared for them. Shore up your succession plan and your hiring pipeline. It’s not something you pull from the shelf and dust off when a vacancy occurs. It should be a dynamic, living and breathing work in progress. The mark of a strong leadership team is a focus on managing future turnover with an effective retention strategy.

The executive search consultants at BrainWorks can partner with you to fine-tune your successful hiring and long-term retention strategy. Contact us today to learn more!


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