3 signs an employee is on the way out

Losing an employee is the most obvious indicator of engagement in your organisation – so how do you know one is on the way out before it happens?

A recent figure from Gallup show that only 34 percent of workers in the US are actively engaged in their jobs. Other studies put the figure even lower.

Historically, the figures for Australia and New Zealand have been around five points lower than the US.

In the decade or so that I’ve been writing and speaking about employee engagement, the proportions of engaged, disengaged and actively disengaged employees have remained remarkably steady at around 30 percent, 40 percent and 30 percent respectively.

What does this mean for you?

It means there’s a good chance you have people on your payroll who are preparing to move on.

They may be already looking for another role (actively disengaged), or they may be waiting for a reason to leave (disengaged).

In both cases, it helps if you can read the signals they’re putting out and take appropriate action.

Here are the most obvious signs that you might be about to lose someone.


1. Erratic work attendance or performance


Poor attendance or work errors from an otherwise dedicated and attentive employee are two big warning signs!

Sometimes these changes are temporary, and you can adjust for a short time. When it reaches the stage where you’re wondering why, don’t be afraid to ask.


2. Reduced motivation or interest


In any workplace, there will always be people who are less likely to speak up in meetings and share their ideas.

It may be that your leadership and culture encourage working this way and it suits your organisation.

What you need to notice here is someone who is now quiet and withdrawn when they previously contributed to discussions and were enthusiastic about the goals of the organisation.

If you do notice this, have a quiet chat with them as soon as possible to check in on what is going on for them.


3. Unreasonable demands


One of our clients recently had a team member who showed both of the signs above for quite a while before their unreasonable demands rang the alarm bells with management.

If you have someone asking for extra leave, more money or other conditions above and beyond their entitlements and your standards, it’s a pretty clear sign that they’re not happy and they’re testing what it’s worth for you to have them stay.


Have you seen any of these signs?


Never ignore them in the hope they will go away.

Instead, it’s time for you to decide what to do next.

Your action plan will depend on where the team member sits on the spectrum from ‘star performer’ to ‘better off without’.

Considering the cost to the organisation of losing a star performer, now is the time to have an honest discussion with this person.

READ: How to deal with a key employee leaving your business

If they’re definitely on their way out, you’re then in a good position to plan the transition.

Unless you have reliable and detailed evidence of the pay and conditions in their new role, don’t be tempted to make a counter-offer. Even if you do decide that’s the best action for you to take, be aware that most staff departures are rarely just for the money.

Experience shows they will still move on. You may have delayed them leaving and bought some breathing space.

If you can buy them back with a higher offer, the next offer that comes along and tops yours will be even more attractive to them.

While you probably hope anyone who’s thinking of leaving will be honest with you about their intentions, sometimes it will be hard for them to tell you.

Sometimes they may not know themselves.

What they do know is that they don’t care that much anymore about the work or the organisation. By being able to read the early warning signs you have an opportunity to find out why and to avoid a potentially damaging situation.