Signs Your Coworker Is Quitting
Sometimes you just know that a person is on the way out the door. Maybe it’s the way they carry themselves differently, or changes that they opposed being forced on them by management. You just know they are ready to leave. Other times the indicators are more subtle and it can take you by surprise. Even when it is more subtle there are signs and indicators that can alert you to the fact that one of your coworkers is looking for greener pastures.
Many of these are changes in the normal behavior of your coworker. Indicators are when they do not act as they have or do things they have not previously done. This is not about people that you want to leave but about recognizing signs in coworkers that are contributing members of the organization. The ones that you want to keep around and work with.
The indicators discussed here are just that, indicators and not guarantees that the person is leaving. The more indicators that you notice though, the more likely they are to have one foot out the door. Use them to prepare yourself so you are not caught by surprise when a friend or coworker announces they will be leaving. If it is someone you want to stay and you catch it early enough you may be able to intervene and help resolve the problem causing them to want to leave.
Performance indicators are those signs that you can see through their work performance and commitment. They show that the person may not be as engaged in the business or process as much as they once were.
08:40 Job History
If you can look at a person’s previous job history to see how long they typically stay at a company. You’ll likely see a pattern of behavior such as moving jobs every 3-5 years. Unless they have a strong reason to stay it is likely this pattern will continue.
“At any job I’ve had before the one I have now, you could look at my resume and go, yeah he’s not going to be here long.”
Their past reasons for leaving may give you a clue that a coworker is planning to quit. People are rather consistent with why they will leave a job. This can come up in interviews when asking why a person is leaving their current job. It will give you a clue as to what they are looking to avoid. Also if the work situation starts to become similar you will know they are likely to leave.
If the person was recently passed over for a promotion or raise they are likely to feel frustrated and undervalued. It is very likely they will at the very least start looking at job opportunities. This may just be a reaction and they are not serious about jumping ship. However it could be that they are looking to advance within or outside of the company. Someone is most likely to leave if they are passed up by someone they see as junior to their skills.
They may have stagnated in their current position and are looking to move into something with more growth or a new technology. In a study by Glassdoor it was found that for each 10 month increment an employee feels stagnate they are 1% more likely to quit. Also if the technology you are using is stagnating then coworkers looking to stay current are likely to leave. There is a sweet spot on new vs old technology when it is popular and still maintained. Older tech that is still maintained may not be considered stagnate.
15:45 Refuse To Take On Long-Term Projects
A person getting ready to leave will be less likely to take on longer term projects. This could prevent them from being able to leave when they plan. They may not want to get started and leave their friends hanging.
“You don’t want to be remembered as the person that left and caused a critical project to fail.”
Most people prefer to wrap up their current work before leaving. They will not leave with any baggage. Also it prevents bad feelings among the coworkers and management at the company. They may want to return one day. The development community is small so you may see the same people at a different job down the line.
A person on their way out may start delegating tasks, especially longer term ones to others. This is different if it’s authorized by management. They may be getting assigned to a new project. They could be getting a promotion or lateral transfer. They are lessening their work load for a reason. This could be to let them have more free time for interviewing. It could also be because they already accepted a job and are preparing to leave.
18:25 Contributes Less At Work
Someone that is normally active (and opinionated) but stops contributing during meetings may be on the way out. This change in behavior is a strong indicator they may be leaving. They have disengaged from the company or project. They are no longer passionate or excited about the projects they are working on. Someone that is more reserved or shy is not likely to show this sign. It could be that they have other things on their mind like personal of family situations. With a little insight you can tell if a person is distracted vs disengaged. This is also an indicator that we’ll talk about later on.
“This is an emotional reaction to avoid pain.”
A major sign they are disengaged is when a person stops returning phone calls and emails in a timely fashion. People that are ready to leave are less likely to communicate often or as effectively. A lot of this has to do with the idea that if they are less available they are less likely to be called out or put on the spot.. If it isn’t something that is public knowledge they will not want to let it slip they are leaving. They may also want to avoid getting pulled into something that may hinder their departure. Just like the previous point this is less likely to apply to shy or reserved coworkers.
Along the same lines they may stop suggesting innovative ideas or solutions. Sharing new ideas and innovations is a strong sign of employee engagement. It show the person wants to be a part of the organization. They have buy-in to the what is going on and the process. Someone that has previously shared ideas or provided opinions and ceases to do so is disengaged from the work. It may be they have personal issues that are distracting them. If they are on the way out then they would not be interested in improving the company.
Their productivity may drop off and they are less inclined to please bosses or supervisors. Presenteeism is what happens when employees are physically at work but not fully present in what they are doing. Behavior change to being less agreeable or less likely to take on extra work to please management is a sign that someone has checked out.
22:50 Desire More Opportunities
In development there is the idea that in order to make a major move forward in your career you need to switch companies. This is mainly due to getting more of a pay increase for starting at a new company over getting promoted. It’s also how you change technologies or stay current. After a few years at a company unless they are building new products constantly you will begin to stagnate. Moving companies gives you a broader base of technologies to work within.
“That’s one of my strengths, that I’ve jumped around a lot.”
A big sign that someone is looking to leave is when you notice a lot of resume driven development. Resume driven development occurs when a person chooses to do things differently or use newer, more cutting edge, technologies for regular tasks in order to add that to their resume. It is an anti-pattern where the developer doesn’t look at what’s best for the project or the business but what it is they want to be able to say they have done. It indicates not only that the person is not engaged in the business but also they are looking to boost themselves as much as possible before leaving.
“It’s very selfish.”
They suddenly want to attend conferences or workshops. Not everyone enjoys attending conferences or workshops. Someone that has never expressed the desire to attend them but suddenly is asking to go may be looking to grow their skills in a certain area. They may also be looking to grow their network within a certain technology. You may also see this if they suddenly start showing up to local user groups.
On the other side a person that previously attended meetings and conferences but no longer wishes to do so indicates they may no longer be interested in improving certain skillsets. Just because they desire to improve their skills doesn’t mean they are leaving, could be they now have capacity or discovered they are getting behind and want to catch up.
Less of a sign and more of a reason to leave is that they are bored. Boredom can present itself in a variety of ways in the workplace. People want to enjoy their job, or at least parts of it enough to make the less enjoyable parts worth the effort. A bored coworker is one that isn’t connected to the rest of the team or the project they are working on.
Thing happen in a person’s life outside of work that makes them more likely to leave their job. Non work indications a person may be leaving can be major life changes, getting a degree or certification, or simply the desire to improve themselves.
28:05 Major Life Change
Major career changes may preempt or follow major life changes. Coworkers could be considering leaving for reasons that have nothing to do with the job or company. They may want to move to be closer to family. Their spouse may have a career making opportunity and they are moving for them. They may have had a tragedy (loss of loved one, divorce, etc.) and want to move away from a place that reminds them. This may be one of the easier things to notice and pick up on. It’s also an area where you can gather intelligence through casual conversation.
Be especially aware of the typical major life events that people go through. Based on a persons age and maturity level you can determine the likelihood of them going through a major life event. Singles in their mid-twenties are more likely to be getting married than someone in their early forties. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen to the latter but that it is less likely. They may need more stability or want to move with their new spouse. Someone recently married may be looking to have children. This means they will be less likely to stay at the 80 hour a week start up. Instead they will be looking for something with more stable hours. A person getting into their 30’s and 40’s may not want the life of a start up employee. Recent divorcees or widows may want to move away from things that remind them of the person.
“It’s one of the reasons I would be very cautious on taking on a partner.”
Life changes effect more than just a person’s day job. If you are working on a side hustle with someone these things will affect that as well. Life changes effect friendships and a persons ability to socialize and go out.
32:05 New Degree, License, or Certification
Most people want to see their friends and coworkers do well and advance. Obtaining a new degree or accreditation can make them a more valuable asset to the company. It may be a requirement for a position or promotion they want such as moving to management.
“A lot of places require you to have a degree.”
Furthering of education is a sign that a coworker is making themselves more attractive to potential employers. This could be to get a promotion within the company. More likely it is to improve their ability to get a new job or put them into the candidate list for a type of job they want.
They may be looking to get into a different area of development or the software production cycle and this is the first step. That may mean they are learning to bring about changes in the company. It is more likely to mean they will be looking to find a place doing what they are studying once they are done.
34:40 Desire to Improve Themselves
Most people dress nice for special occasions, but when a coworker that typically dresses casually starts wearing a tie they may be looking to leave. They are likely dressing up for an interview. If they come in one day in jeans and the next in a suit and then back to jeans you should suspect they are interviewing. If they are a real slacker when it comes to laundry this could be the only clothes they have clean.
“Everyone is going to come into the office dressed as Batman.”
There is a saying to dress for the job you want not the one you have. The problem is you come into the office and everyone is dress as Batman. Seriously though, improvements in dress could be an indicator that someone is angling for a promotion. In order to update your wardrobe and not trigger warning flags in people make it a subtle shift. Transition from t-shirts and jeans to polo or short sleeve button down and jeans. Then after people have gotten used to that start wearing slacks or khakis. Next update your shoes. By this time people are used to you dressing nicer and start to expect it so seeing you with a tie will not be a surprise to them.
Elective visits to the doctor or dentist may be a sign that a coworker is expecting to not have health coverage for a time. Someone that avoids the dentist but suddenly starts getting cleanings may be looking to jump ship soon. Most people try to make use of their benefits before leaving. Especially if they have good coverage. The benefits at the next job may not take effect until a waiting period. There may be comparable benefits at the new job and they are doubling up while they can.
As humans we are tribal, social beings. How we interact with one another in various settings including the office can say a lot about what is going on. There are several social clues that a coworker may be leaving including increased social media activity, losing office friends, not being close to anyone in the office, and an overall deterioration in attitude.
37:55 They’re More Active on LinkedIn
Many developers are introverted and/or shy. They don’t like networking in person. This makes it more likely for them to rely on a social network for gaining business contacts.
A person that is looking to move jobs is likely to spend more time on LinkedIn. Part of this will be updating their profiles with the most recent information. Another reason for this will be connecting with potential job openings. You’ll see sudden increases in groups, new connections, and shared articles. They may also start posting when they don’t normally do so. Making changes to your profile will put it at the top of searches. It’s suggested to do this on Sunday evening. This will put you at the top of the list when recruiters search on Monday morning.
“I do it mainly so I don’t look at my resume and go, ‘Why is Silverlight on there?'”
When a person is regularly on LinkedIn it isn’t a sign they are looking for a new job. Regularly scheduled times to update your profile will prevent coworkers or management from assuming your are leaving just because you updated their profile. If you have a blog you can post on LinkedIn. It is a social network and a good way to have conversations about work related articles without the frustrations of other social networks.
41:15 Work Friends Have Left
People tend to make friends where they spend most of their time and energy. It’s easier to make friends with the people you are around. Think about when you were in school, you became friends with the people you were around.
A UK study found that 57% of employees have a best friend at work that makes their job more enjoyable. A third of them credited their friendship as causing them to be more productive. One fifth also stated that it boosts creativity on the job. Six out of ten rated job satisfaction and happiness as more important than salary.
“We all go out to lunch and joke around, constantly.”
If one person leaves you can expect their close friends may not be far behind them. It may be that the person who left recruits their friend because they know they can work together. That friendship may have been the only think keeping the person from looking for a new job.
Similarly if a person is distancing themselves from coworkers they may have already checked out. It occurs when someone that normally chats before or after meetings or “around the water cooler” stops being as loquacious. They may feel there is no need to keep up personal relationships at work. This could mean they are moving further away or out of the field. They might not want to feel guilty about leaving.
46:00 No Sense Of Rapport
Like losing work friends, not having them in the first place is a sign that a person may not stay long in a job. It’s natural for people to want to develop relationships with people at work. When a coworker doesn’t have friends or people they share interests with at work they are more likely to leave for an environment that is more suited to them.
“I was the one redneck in the middle of serious city boys.”
Culture fit is sometimes mocked when hiring people but can be an important part of work life. You don’t want to be around people you are constantly disagreeing with on non work related topics. It’s hard to enjoy what you do when you are on edge.
“There’s playing politics and there’s playing Watergate.”
People that don’t have good friendships or relationships with coworkers can feel isolated at their job. They don’t have anyone to turn to or vent to when things get tough. Even worse is when coworkers argue and undermine each other in the office.
49:30 A Deteriorating Attitude
A coworker’s attitude toward the job will be one of the most obvious signs they are considering leaving. A model employee may start to show signs of fatigue, irritation, and frustration as their attitude toward work declines. At this point though they may not have decided to leave as they are still upset about things. It’s when they no longer care that they have decided to move on. Before they reach that point, when still vocal they may not be at the breaking point. This will present itself in several ways depending on the personality of the coworker.
“Or just figure out a way to take the pressure off because you don’t want to see another human being suffer.”
It usually comes about because the person does not feel valued by management or their fellow employees. They may feel like they are being taken for granted. Hard work may not be recognized. Feedback may be ignored by management. Advice to junior developers may not be taken. Many times simple recognition for extra effort or solving a difficult problem is all they really need. It can be very discouraging to put a lot of extra effort into something to not even be thanked for the sacrifice. The recognition doesn’t necessarily need to be elaborate, a simple thank you for working over is enough. On it’s own lack of recognition may not be a top reason to leave but it may be a deciding factor.
The most obvious sign of a deteriorating attitude is when a coworker starts complaining a lot. It is most pronounced when someone that doesn’t normally complain starts. Usually it will start small with very specific complaints about a project or product. As it begins to generalize to complaining about policy and management style the person is most likely to start looking elsewhere. On the other side of this when a person stops complaining they have already made the decision to leave. The complaining is a sign that they still care about the company and making it better. Stopping complaining occurs because they no longer care as they have disengaged.
A more subtle indicator of impending quitting is a coworker that takes excessive or longer breaks than usual. The obvious is the lunch hour that becomes two because they were out interviewing. It’s really obvious if they come back to the office still eating or hungry. Dressing nice and taking a longer lunch can also be an indicator. Breaks are essential and required by law, though if you work remote it’s harder to enforce them. A coworker that is taking more breaks than normal is disengaged from the job. There may be several reasons for this including personal life issues or the beginnings of burn out.
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Tricks of the Trade
Live without regrets. When you lose somebody, they are gone. If you want to be at peace when it’s over, be there in a way that causes you to have no regrets when it’s over.