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How Can I Tell if Someone is About to Quit?

employees quit managers not companiesI have a really hard time finding quality people for my finance team. I recently lost a really good employee and it was a bit of a surprise to me. I think I must have missed warning size that this person was about to quit. I am hoping others can share from their experiences some warning signs that a colleague is about to quit.


Len Green
Title: Performance Improvement Consultant and E..
Company: Haygarth Consulting LLC
LinkedIn Profile
(Performance Improvement Consultant and ERP Strategist, Haygarth Consulting LLC) |

A very honest question-we could all ask this more I think!

Are you able to find out why people are leaving (formally or informally)? What caused them to compare their current job (e.g. culture, boss' style, meaningful work, opportunities to grow, compensation, recognition...) with a new opportunity and decide the opportunity won out overall?

It will happen on occasion, simply because of circumstances beyond your control, however how do you take the temperature of your staff and identify opportunities to keep them engaged more, rather than less?

David Smith
Title: Manager
Company: Private
(Manager, Private) |

Anonymous, if you can't tell and are therefor focused on when employees are about to quit, no offense, but that's far from your only problem.

I would imagine you may not be too in touch with how engaged employees are, may be paying a higher price around the ones who stay and are waiting too long to take action.

If you could tell they are about to quit, what would you do that you aren't doing now and why do you think it wouldn't be too late? Is it only the ones who are about to quit that require that attention? What else are you not listening to?

It's like asking, "how can I tell when my wife is about to leave?" Is nailing down the departure time line the important thing to focus on? Not if you want to stay happily married.

In my experience, more often employees quit managers not companies.

Jean-Jacques Verhaeghe, MBA,..
Title: Group Services PLMO (Product Lifecycle M..
Company: Dimension Data (Group Services), J Verh..
(Group Services PLMO (Product Lifecycle Management Office) Senior Manag, Dimension Data (Group Services), J Verhaeghe and) |

Warning signs that an employee wants to quit, include: behaviours of disengagement; previously pro-active self-starters become task-oriented; participation in forums such as workshops decline; at coffee/water stations people will highlight "things around here" that they are disgruntled with.
Companies can compile a database of reasons for employee resignations, by holding exit interviews, thereby collating and identifying trends of why people leave.

Keith Johnson
Title: Principal
Company: Keith E. Johnson CPA PA
(Principal, Keith E. Johnson CPA PA) |

While people will quit even under the best of circumstances, have you taken a look at yourself. Are you fair with your employees. Have you given them raises as much as possible. Are you nice to them? Do you allow for professional development? Do you provide a calm atmosphere for the employees to vent problems. Are you approachable? If there is a problem, are employees afraid to come to you.
Not trying to be a jerk here, but you didn't say too much about yourself. One reason employees quit is because they can't stand the boss and they have to vomit each morning before coming to work? Are you a boss that people will want to bust their tail for or are you one who employees hang you in effigy?

(N/A) |

Every manager has his/her own style of managing the team. Sometimes, there is certain business strategy which may cause the manger handle things unfairly. Such as, to target someone and to write inaccurate warnings for earning trust from another team member in order to get more information; especially, a new leader would try to gather more valuable information he/she likes to know. Whether this target choose to quit or to tolerate it, it may depend on the consequences of the strategy: How this target would be isolated? Would it damage the business? How the group of team react to it? For example, when a company facing a main reform process, many changes can cause resistance from its employees. How a new leader help the team to walk through this period? Would cancelling the development or bullying the one who contributes the new idea of changes help calm down the resistance? It may work. The consequences was that: someone figured out “the new direction” to revise the previous development and to broke down the daily business process around the target. There were so many questions when using the strategy: Would the new leader stop considering the target trying to be a jerk when the target reported the problems? Would he/she spend some time to have a look the completed new development which had been working well? What kind of investigation he was using which ignored asking the main users? …

Paul Gilmore
Title: Director
Company: Logan Consulting
(Director, Logan Consulting) |

Keep in mind also that unless you spend time with the employee regularly, you will have very little idea of what is going on outside the office. What classes / hobbies /activities are going on in the evening/weekends? Are there family issues? Retaining an employee is much more that just creating the right office environment.
Exit interviews - There is no incentive to tell the truth - they are already quitting.

(CFO) |

"Exit interviews - There is no incentive to tell the truth - they are already quitting"

ABSOLUTELY! I don't even know why firms have them. Too little. Too late.

My standard advice to people who ask me what they should say in an exit interview is:

1) Avoid it if you can. (I've tried myself and been "forced" by HR)

2) Say as little as possible. You'll accomplish nothing by telling them things they should have already known like your boss is a controlling jerk or, the owner's son is stealing from the firm.

3) Lie about why you're leaving to give them cover. Point to some factor outside of the organization that provides them cover.

"We're moving to be closer to family"

Otherwise, they will cover themselves by exaggerating or making things up about you that may tarnish your reputation.

Marek Fodor
Title: Chairman
Company: KANTOX
LinkedIn Profile
(Chairman, KANTOX) |

A pretty good predictor is increased linkedin activity (i.e. suddenly requesting connections with his/her current colleagues). Unfortunately by then it is usually too late.

BTW, if what you are after is measuring overall employees' mood, check out like We find it useful.

(Director of Finance & Accounting) |

The best predictors that I have found are they dress more professionally and look more polished in their appearance than usual. They have more absences that are not scheduled well in advance. They have more frequent appointments that require them to come in late or leave early. They have a bounce in their step whereas previously they may not have been quite so upbeat.

Ern Miller
Title: Co-CEO
Company: Miller Small Business Solutions
(Co-CEO, Miller Small Business Solutions) |

Except for the professional clothing, it sounds like they are having an affair.

Sara Voight
Title: Controller
Company: Critical Signal Technologies, Inc
(Controller, Critical Signal Technologies, Inc) |

I am also seeing this quite a bit more recently than in the past. I live in the middle of the auto industry, which although somewhat self-corrected during the recession, their pay and benefits far outreach what I can afford. I can't blame someone for accepting a position with me and in less than three months moving on for that reason. I am speaking as I am looking for a replacement under exactly these conditions.

I work doubly as hard to try to make the culture fit what I explained to them during the interview process. That can also be a challenge as corporate goals change frequently and everyone is left to scramble to keep up. Only a small group of accounting and finance people are comfortable in an environment like this. Keeping my door open and sharing some of my weaknesses as a leader also helps keep communication open. When I don't know how someone is feeling, there is no way I can anticipate if they are getting ready to leave.

The only clues I have come from how well I know my staff (without invading their personal lives). Only then will I have any awareness of their happiness or possibility of their moving on. Some become 'lazy' and others seem to develop super-human energy and productivity. There is no one answer to identifying the clues.

Anonymous User
Title: CFO
Company: Local Government Agency
(CFO, Local Government Agency) |


Sara. So far, you are the only commenter here with the foresight to realize that it might not be the boss or working conditions at all. It might just be good old pay and benefits. A real motivator to move out and on.

Sometimes, knowing that one can't maintain staffing because the competition is luring them away with better pay and benefits is a wake up call for us to start looking ourselves. Every day is a learning opportunity.


Mahfuz Khalili
Title: CEO
Company: Great + Innovative Ideas
(CEO, Great + Innovative Ideas) |

Very interesting and good comments. In my experience while top of the list is better opportunity that employees leave, employees may ignore any of them if they are engaged in the work that they like to do, open and honest communication as to their performance, fair recognition based on performance, career tracking, regular coaching and feedback from the boss.

(Owner) |

I ran a small company for several years and I now work part-time in retail at night, while being an a.m., work-on-demand, telecommuting employee in NYC.

When I had in-house employees, a sign they were leaving would be, taking their nick-knacks, desk photos and wall-posters home. Then it's usually too late. Harder for a small business when the economy improves like it did right before the crash in early 2000's. They all left for better paying, chic software gaming jobs downtown before the crash hit and closed those companies down as well.

Now that I do part-time night work at a big box retail, I'm amazed at the constant employee churning. Also amazed that the mgrs. seem fine with it and even seem to welcome the older, experienced employees leaving. Newer ones are paid less (less vacation time, etc.) and that adds to the margin and profit. Much of retail is cutting all employee benefits and offering only part-time because they need to meet the stockholder's and BOD's ever increasing need for profit. The problem is, morale is very bad and just about everyone is looking to leave. Too many other jobs out there as the economy rebounds.

Christopher Williams
Title: Corporate Controller
Company: HSG Professional Window Cleaners, Inc. (..
(Corporate Controller, HSG Professional Window Cleaners, Inc. (HSG)) |

Everyone will be motivated to quit for different reasons based on their own specific situations. Some are motivated by money, more responsibility, greater work challenges, or commute, while others may be motivated by work-life balance, need for a change in industry, work niches, or environment. If you aren't actually "talking" to your employees you won't know. People will normally drop hints out of frustration or a need to vent before they make the decision to move on to something else. We get so busy sometimes we often forget to just talk.

Carla Gordon
Title: Accountant
Company: Govt
(Accountant, Govt) |

Exit interviews are no good. I had to do them in a smaller dept and no one really told the truth because they were afraid. The director was supposed to see them, so everyone knew they were ruining their chance for a reference if they told the truth (the director himself was the main problem).

One thing you could try to do to prevent, or at least become aware of, problems is to try to give employees a way to provide feedback. At my current organization, there is NO way to give feedback on all the issues we see, and the frustration level is sky high. If you do something like a survey, be clear whether individual comments will be published. Some comments will certainly be traceable to individuals, which you want to avoid.

(Controller) |

I agree with Keith Johnson in that you really need to look at yourself even though it is hard to do. People leave their current jobs for (1) more money, (2) a better opportunity, (3) they dislike the work or (4) they can't stand their boss. On the flip side, people will stay in a position that might not be as high paying or it is not a growing company because they have a good boss.

So the key thing is to check in with your key staff, find out what is going on in their life, ask them how they are doing, what did they think about the last project, what new things would they like to learn are there any roadblocks they need help with to do a better job? If they want to buy a house or are having a baby, there might be a financial incentive to make more money. If they are in a repetitive job, they might need more opportunities to learn a different side of the business or accounting jobs. If they dislike their work, address it. If they want your job, and it is not available, their only choice is to leave, despite a positive environment, great boss or good pay. Unfortunately, we can't hold good people back, it is part of the cycle. And finally, if it the reason they are leaving is because of you, then they just want out. My sense is, if you are asking this question, it is probably not you. But it would still be a good idea to check with the rest of your staff on what you could do to be a better boss and how to make the job more interesting.

Mark Matheny
Title: VP - FInancial Planning and Analysis
Company: Novolex (formerly Hilex Poly)
(VP - FInancial Planning and Analysis, Novolex (formerly Hilex Poly)) |

Requests for single day vacation or personal days. Cleaning up office and taking personal items home. Attitude change.

Jeff Durbin
Title: Chief Financial Officer
Company: F. Gavina and Sons, Inc.
(Chief Financial Officer, F. Gavina and Sons, Inc.) |

I think a good leader does everything he or she can do to develop their people. If those people eventually outgrow the firm and/or the opportunities that the firm can provide then you should pat yourself on the back for developing them.

Think about it. If you take someone worth $30k per year and develop them, either in the workplace or promoting their education or whatever else and they become someone worth $60k per year then you have done them good and you have done society good. If the structure of your firm simply doesn't allow you to provide them with further development then let them go to better pastures.

And then work on changing your firm so it rewards talent instead of letting it get away.

Tarun Joshi
Title: Manager
Company: Deutsche Bank
(Manager, Deutsche Bank) |

Arrogance at workplace and not taking corrective action even after being told; may be signs of an employee leaving. Looking frustrated and lost could be one more indicator of a misfit. I also agree with Jean-Jacques. Really nice observations.

Topic Expert
Scott MacDonald
Title: President/Owner
Company: AlphaMac Resources, Inc.
(President/Owner, AlphaMac Resources, Inc.) |

I don't know of any hard and fast indicator. Everyone is different as to how they display their emotions, thus if someone is frustrated with you or their job, you may or may not be able to pick up on it.

The question is how do you design your organization and the jobs to best fit your employees and keep them happy. Countless volumes of books and articles have been written to address this, so I won't bore you will it.

I said all that to say this, if you have done everything you can think of and everything your senior managers can think of to make your organization the place to "work", then you probably have other places to spend your time rather than worrying about how happy your employees are with their job. Don't get me wrong here, I didn't say you don't care about their feelings, you do, but if your organization does all the right things, then that is all you can do.

You will never make everyone happy. Trying to will make you exhausted and disappointed.

Whenever someone moves on, I rejoice, hoping that I have done my job of training them and getting them ready for the next challenge.


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