In employee retention, you never have to be surprised again. There are common traits among employees who are likely to quit — even those who are secretive about their plans.

Surprisingly, workers who are reading job listings in non-work hours, leave work promptly at the end of the work day or who start taking more vacations — aren’t necessarily going to quit.

But a lack of engagement is almost a sure indicator. That’s according to research by Tim Gardner, Ph.D., a Utah State University associate professor at the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business.

He says there are 10 red flags. If employees display just six of them, there’s an 80 percent probability the persons will resign.

The red flags about employees:

1. They offered fewer constructive contributions in meetings.

2. They were more reluctant to commit to long-term projects.

3. They become more reserved and quiet.

4. They became less interested in advancing in the organization.

5. They were less interested in pleasing their boss than before.

6. They avoided social interactions with their boss and other members of management.

7. They suggested fewer new ideas or innovative approaches.

8. They began doing the minimum amount of work needed and no longer went beyond the call of duty.

9. They were less interested in participating in training and development programs.

10. Their work productivity decreased.

His co-researchers: Huntsman Professor Steve Hanks and Chad H. Van Iddekinge, of Florida State University.

Surprisingly, workers who are reading job listings in non-work hours, leave work promptly at the end of the work day or who start taking more vacations — aren’t necessarily going to quit.


Admittedly, the 10 red flags probably won’t surprise you. However, he says there are employee indicators that aren’t listed among the 10.

“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,” says Professor Gardner.

“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,” he explains.

In a press release, Dr. Gardner says that in today’s competitive business environment, where companies invest a lot in their top performers, this information might help managers find ways to keep people on board.

He adds the “dark side” of his research was that some employers may opt to let people go if they thought they were going to leave anyway.

He explains research has shown that people who are contemplating a job change are more likely to share company secrets or do things to sabotage the organization’s goals.

“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.”

From the Coach’s Corner, related HR content:

Small Business – Easy Ways to Boost Your Employees’ Morale — Employee morale affects performance. Study after study shows a significant percentage of worker morale is mediocre, at best. That’s often the case even for companies that are able to pay competitive wages and benefits.

How Not to Worry about Keeping Your Top Employees — Increasingly, employers are worried about filling open slots and retaining their best workers, according to a 2012 survey of 526 human resources professionals. Sixty-one percent indicate they’re concerned about retention.

How You Can Eliminate Destructive Conflict for Better Teamwork — For better employee-team decision-making and higher performance, it’s true that constructive conflict works. Usually, the best ideas evolve when ideas are discussed and debated. But when employees fail to exercise self control and their egos get in the way, emotions flare and cliques are formed in the workplace.

Workplace Bullies May Hurt Retention of All Employees, Not Just Victims — Victims of workplace bullies are less likely to quit than employees who observe the abuse, according to a study by a Canadian university. The 2012 research implies a costly threat to an organization’s teamwork and productivity.

“Human resources are like natural resources; they’re often buried deep. You have to go looking for them; they’re not just lying around on the surface.”

-Ken Robinson


Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.