How To Tell When Someone Will Resign – 7 Common Signs
“The person who knows how will always have a job. The person who knows why will always be his boss.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
I was picking my son up from the nursery when his teacher told me she resigned. While she was explaining how they will transition a new teacher so the children get used to a new face, I was thinking to myself that I had a feeling she was leaving. I couldn’t put my finger on why I had that feeling, but it got me thinking.
I worked with and managed plenty of people, hired more people than I can remember, fired some people unfortunately, and received a fair share of resignations along the way. In my early days as a manager, the resignations affected me a lot. I used to believe it was a personal failure of mine when I lost someone. I wanted to figure out what I was doing wrong (or not doing) so I can fix it. With time, I learned a lot and stopped taking things personally.
People Resign for Different Reasons:
- They might be “pulled” by something else like another job opportunity, new career path, going back to school, moving to another country, starting-up his/her own business, or staying home (e.g. dedicate time to new baby).
- They might be “pushed” away from their current role. They might be frustrated with the manager, upset for being passed up for a promotion, don’t feel they fit into the company culture, etc. Some might resign to preempt being fired (e.g. after receiving multiple warnings).
Why You Should Care:
It’s important for you as a manager to be able to read your team well so you can take corrective action quickly instead of fighting fires. If you want to keep this person, then you can address the issue early on and prevent the resignation. Something more important is that you will be improving things for the whole team, which builds positive momentum. You might ask “what if I don’t mind the person leaving?”, you can prepare for a replacement to minimize the downtime.
If you’re thinking “the economy is bad, they can’t go anywhere”, think again… fast. The good people will get jobs somewhere else and if there is a problem, you should address it.
Time and experience taught me to recognize common signs people give off before resigning. Here they are:
1- Irritable (highly flammable):
This one can be a very obvious sign. When a calm person suddenly becomes easily frustrated at every little and big issue, it’s a red flag. What you want to look for here is a change for the person compared to his/her “normal” state. The extra irritability might be due to something else (personal issues), but if the irritability shows up around work issues more then personal interactions then it’s probably frustrations with work.
2- Attitude Problem (complain-ville):
Again here you are looking for a change in attitude. The person will become cynical and start to trash talk the company, colleagues, other departments, or the boss (yes that’s you) on a regular basis. S/he might start to clash with colleagues (might be due to productivity or commitment issues… see below). Look for an increase in the amount of passive complaining with the person.
3- Productivity Drop (the nose dive):
One of the most obvious signs is a sudden drop in productivity. A high achiever becomes an average achiever or even worse… an underachiever. When it’s consistent and lasts for a few months, you have a red flag.
4- Tardiness (check out):
This is very common one. The person starts to show up late to work and leave as quickly as possible. S/he will take more sick days than usual. Also look out for long lunch breaks and mini-breaks throughout the day. Some might be using their breaks to go on interviews.
5- Body Language (hide & seek):
The person might start to avoid eye contact with you or avoid interaction with you as much as possible. S/he might even become detached from everyone and keep to him/herself altogether. S/he either feels guilty for leaving you and the team or just wants to avoid taking on any new commitments. S/he might become nervous around you as if you will figure it out.
6- Avoids Commitment (hot potatoes):
This one is funny because the person will start to avoid all projects like hot potatoes (especially big, projects that can push her/his career forward). S/he will try to avoid committing to any project and just stick to doing the minimum job recruitments. This often leads to conflict with colleagues who will not like carrying that extra weight.
7- Loss of Drive (no “mojo”):
This is a more subtle clue. S/he will be passive about the feedback you give on his/her work. The facial reaction and body language when you are giving feedback is superficial. It’s almost like they are daydreaming while you talk and they nod their head to pretend they care. S/he doesn’t take action on the feedback and stops taking initiative at work. S/he is saving the mojo for the next job.
What about you? What signs do you see before people resign?