Sometimes, you can spot an employee’s intent to leave a mile away. He or she is dressing up more than usual, leaving LinkedIn open on their desktop, coming in late or leaving early for a “doctor’s appointment.” Not everyone so clearly telegraphs their plans, though. It’s easy to be blindsided by a colleague or subordinate’s decision to say goodbye if you aren’t attuned to the subtle signals that hint that his person isn’t happy and may be eyeing the exit. Here are four of them.
She’s not volunteering for new opportunities.
If your team go-getter is no longer pushing everyone else forward with new ideas and initiatives, it’s a troubling sign. If she’s usually the one leading brainstorming sessions and proactively identifying projects and she’s now taking a backseat to others instead of jumping out of hers, it’s a red flag. She may not see herself staying with the team much longer or is burned out on current dynamics and is reluctant to commit to anything new.
He isn’t talking about the future.
If one of your top performers isn’t mentioning plans that extend beyond the immediate, it may be because he doesn’t see himself sticking around past the end of the quarter, let alone until next year. An engaged employee is both focused on his day-to-day responsibilities and interested in and aware of what’s in the pipeline for the team (new clients coming on board, product launches, hiring plans, etc.). If your team is facing some tough deadlines and ambitious goals and one of your team members seems unusually blasé in the face of these pressures, it may be because he doesn’t intend to be around to deal with them.
She’s not fighting back.
When people check out, their work starts to matter less to them. You may not notice a decline in quality, but the passion behind it is missing. Instead of asserting her point of view, your formerly opinionated lead designer just silently implements the CEO’s suggestion that the new brochure features Comic Sans font without a peep. Your typically tight-fisted head of HR doesn’t speak up when Engineering declares they need three new front-end engineers ASAP. People who care and feel invested are motivated to assert their points of view, even if that opens the door to (constructive) conflict. People who are plotting their escape can no longer be bothered.
Your other employees have noticed or remarked on an attitude change.
Maybe it’s some friendly teasing — “Smile. It’s budgeting time!”– in a meeting or a more serious discussion where employee A expresses concern for employee B, but if others are noticing something is off with one of their fellow team members, you should treat their intuition seriously. A colleague likely has much more insight into what another team member’s mindset is than does the boss, so when they tell you that one of your project managers is feeling dangerously close to burnout or suggest that there’s a way to distribute existing workload more equitably, heed their words. Good team members are hard to come by and they’re as motivated to keep one of their colleagues as you are to hang onto a top performer.
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