And those behaviors may not be what you had expected. While many may expect an employee’s key pre-resignation behaviors to involve taking more vacation time and leaving at 5pm on the dot, that isn’t the case. Disengagement, Gardner found, comprises much more than that.
“People having a lot of ‘doctor’s appointments,’ showing up to work in a suit, or leaving a resume on the printer were the kind of signs that dropped off the list,” Gardner says. “You might think that someone who starts showing up to work late, failing to return phone calls and e-mails, and taking lots of sick days might be about to leave, but those weren’t unique behaviors that applied only to the quitters.”
Gardner’s research shows that in the one to two months before they leave a job, there are ten “subtle but consistent” adjustments employees make:
- Offering fewer constructive contributions to meetings
- Being reluctant to commit to long-term projects
- Becoming more reserved and quiet
- Becoming less interested in advancing in the organization
- Becoming less interested in pleasing the boss
- Avoiding social interactions with managers
- Suggesting fewer new ideas or innovative approaches
- Doing the minimum amount of work needed
- Losing interest in training and development programs
- Falling work productivity
The research was more complicated than a simple survey, and involved statistical analysis using samples from around the world. So no matter where you are, it would seem, statistics can tell whether you’re going to leave your job.
“It appears that a person’s attitude can create behaviors that are hard to disguise,” he says. “As the grass starts to look greener on the other side of the fence to you, chances are that others will soon notice that you’ve lost your focus.”
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Wondering if someone on your team is about to walk out the door? Talk to Utah State University associate professor Tim Gardner. He says it’s all a matter of statistics: if employees demonstrate at least six types of behaviors he identified in a study, he can predict with 80% accuracy whether they will leave.