The 13 most common signs that an employee is about to quit

A recent study identifies the most common "pre-quitting behaviors" among employees, Jamie Herzlich reports for Newsday.

The study was led by Timothy Gardner, associate professor of management at the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business at Utah State University and Peter Hom, professor of management at the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University.

To conduct the study, the researchers first asked 100 managers about behavior exhibited by employees shortly before they left for another job. Then, they condensed the 900 behaviors identified by respondents into a 116-question survey, which they administered to three other sets of managers. Using this second round of feedback, the researchers narrowed down the list to 13 of the most common pre-quitting behaviors.

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According to the study, these are the most common signs that an employee is about to quit:

  1. Decreased productivity;
  2. Decreased collaboration;
  3. No longer going above and beyond on projects;
  4. No longer trying to please his or her manager;
  5. Avoiding projects with long-term deadlines;
  6. A sudden, more negative attitude;
  7. Decreased motivation and initiative;
  8. Less focus on day-to-day responsibilities;
  9. Expressing dislike of the job more often;
  10. Expressing dislike of his or her manager more often;
  11. Leaving early more often;
  12. Decreased enthusiasm for the organization's mission; and
  13. Less interest in working with clients or customers.

To reduce turnover, managers should focus on short-term interventions, rather than large-scale, long-term changes, Gardner and Hom write in the Harvard Business Review. Gardner and Hom suggest simple steps that have an immediate effect, such as small merit increases in pay, special projects, promotions, or stay interviews.

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Stay interviews are similar to exit interviews, except instead of probing why an employee has decided to leave, managers seek to learn what has kept high-performing employees at the organization so far and what could prevent them from leaving in the future. Managers should conduct these interviews 30 days after new employees start and then every six to nine months after their first year, suggests Barbara DeMatteo, director of HR consulting at Portnoy, Messinger, Pearl & Associates, a labor relations consulting firm.

Promotions and pay increases may make a difference as well. A study by Glassdoor Economic Research found that employees who go a long time without a promotion are highly likely to leave their organization entirely, rather than seeking a new position at the same organization, writes Herzlich. Giving employees a promotion can be an acknowledgment of both their growth and potential, says MaryJo Fitzgerald, corporate affairs manager at Glassdoor (Gardner/Hom, Harvard Business Review, 10/16/16; Herzlich, Newsday, 8/6).

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