Replacing an integral employee can often be stressful, so how can you tell if someone is going to leave?

7 Signs Your Employee is Thinking of Leaving

Employee turnover is a huge concern for many companies and unexpected departures can often cause major headaches for your HR department and senior management team. Knowing in advance when an employee might leave can be a huge boon when it comes to preparation and can give you a chance to fix any problems the employee may have before it’s too late, so what are the signs that someone may be thinking of jumping ship?

They start taking more time off

Holidays can often be a last thought in the UK, with many employees taking all of their holidays in a rush at the end of the year when they realise they have some left. In fact, the average UK worker leaves an average of four days per year unused, so when employees start taking single day holidays spread over a number of weeks this can be a very good indicator that they are about to leave and are interviewing with other companies.

Employees may also use sick days for interviews, or may simply be trying to use up all of their allocated holiday and sick leave before they jump ship.

They become more tentative about long-term projects

Outgoing employees may decline to work on long-term projects or seek to shorten the length of projects in order to wrap up all of their work before their departure. Related to this, employees looking to leave may increasingly bring other people in on their projects in order to spread the workload and surreptitiously prepare their colleagues to take over their work.

They want to attend more training, networking events and workshops

Some people love networking events and training and some people hate them. If an employee used to predominantly fit the latter camp but now has an unquenchable thirst for networking and improvement they may be thinking of leaving the company. Disengaged employees often seek to strengthen their skills and networks soon before a departure in order to bolster their opportunities elsewhere.

Their behaviour changes drastically

If a usually outgoing employee suddenly seems moody or quiet this is a good indication that something is wrong and they may be considering their options. Conversely, if a usually quiet employee suddenly starts going for lunch with colleagues every day, they may be discussing their plans to move. Saying that though, it could just be that they’ve decided to be more social at work or may be having a bad week, so look for other signs to confirm your suspicions.

When asked about potential issues, they seem closed off

If you notice a change in behaviour you may want to talk to the employee in question to see if anything’s wrong. If they seem closed off or unwilling to divulge any issues they may have, they might be too far down the road to correct the issues they have. An employee who has already made their mind up to leave may have already mentally moved on and will just ignore any problems that come up as they know they are leaving soon.

They change their working habits

An employee once generous with their time may start arriving and leaving at exactly their contracted hours once they’ve made the decision to seek greener pastures. Once they have made their mind up to leave they may see no point in impressing their supervisor and therefore only do the minimum amount of work required.

Their productivity drops

A usually productive employee may just start phoning it in when they’ve made up their mind to leave. This is known as ‘presenteeism’ and is a sign that your employee no longer cares about their work, and may be thinking of jumping ship. Conversely, some considerate leavers may ramp up their productivity to lose off as many projects as possible before they depart – these are the employees you really do not want to lose.


Of course, these signs are only an indication that something is amiss, and alone they might not mean anything. That being said, if an employee is exhibiting a number of these behaviours, they may be thinking of leaving. The earlier you notice these signs, the better your chance of retaining the employee. CIPD stats state that the expense of recruiting and training a replacement is on average between £7,000 and £10,000, so if you think an employee may be leaving, it’s best to have an open conversation with them and their manager about your suspicions and what can be done to avoid the huge expense of recruiting and training their replacement.

If their heart is set on moving and they just can’t be talked down, make sure to create a comprehensive handover plan and try to negotiate as large a notice period as possible to allow time for the recruitment and training of their replacement, making sure to burn no bridges in the process – they may just come back improved and renewed a few years down the line.

If you have recently had an employee leave your business, get in touch with Jackson Hogg. Jackson Hogg is a leading recruitment firm specialising in engineering, manufacturing and technology recruitment in the UK, EU and USA. We take a discipline-led approach to recruitment, giving us full visibility of the market across all sectors, allowing us to place candidates from areas of low-demand into areas with the biggest competition.

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