How Can We Predict Who Is About To Quit?

“I was totally surprised when one of our top people quit. I thought he was satisfied with his job.   I don’t want to get sandbagged again. What are some early warning signs of someone leaving?”

As a career and executive coach for LinkedIn’s Profinder, a marketplace to connect people who need professional services with freelancers who can provide that service, I’ve noticed in the past six months an increase in requests from people who are looking for greener pastures.

Many of them were not fully satisfied but stayed with their company because of a perceived lack of opportunity out there. Now they see companies are hiring, and they are willing to test the waters. Here are some of the reasons they wrote for seeking career coaching help:

“I want to figure out how I can progress in my career and move to the next step in my company or at another. I’m ready for a change.”

“I basically want to reinvent myself. I am bored in my current role and there is a lack of opportunities with my current company. I need help to better position myself in the marketplace.”

“I am a Director with a very large Telecom company. I am looking for a comparable leadership position with a company that has more advancement opportunities.”

In addition to a lack of career growth opportunities, there are other situations that can trigger job dissatisfaction and provoke a valued and talented worker to start looking at what’s out there…such as a:

  • Major project ends and there is nothing “in the wings”.
  • Mentor/friend/or manager left recently and therefore could try to recruit this employee.
  • New manager is assigned who may /may not be as great as the employee’s last one.
  • Major reorganization occurs and the employee doesn’t know his/ her place or value.
  • Recent stock crash or options went underwater and therefore there is less financial commitment to stay.
  • Position of increased visibility (holding office in a professional association) that gets the person known outside the company.
  • Changing life events such as receiving an advanced degree or turning a key birthday (30-40-50) or family divorce or death etc.

What You Must Do:

Go into action to prevent key people “jumping ship”. Here are five actions to take now that goes beyond saying you want to retain your top talent to actually does something:

  • Identify high performers/ stars/special groups who might be vulnerable.
  • Find out their satisfaction level through surveys or focus groups or one-on-ones.
  • Use this knowledge to improve the potential “looker’s” job assignment and career opportunities.
  • Recognize that as many as 85% of the reasons why a valued employee leaves are controlled by his/her direct manager.
  • Therefore, focus your retention efforts on supporting your supervisors and managers’ ability to engage, motivate, and develop their people.

Smart Moves Tip

Don’t wait until employees leave to find out why. Instead of exit interviews do stay interviews. The best way to find out what motivates your employees and how to retain them is to not ask them: “How’s it going?” Rather ask these more specific questions: “Why did you join the organization? Which aspects of your work do you enjoy the most? Which do you least enjoy? Are you receiving sufficient opportunities for growth and development? What would influence you to leave?

The stay interview is an opportunity for managers to build trust and to assess the degree of their employee’s personal satisfaction and engagement. If you can find problems early, you can then find ways to solve them. That will give you a better chance of retaining your critical talent. Also see: Is Retaining Your Best Talent a Priority: It Should Be! Employee Turnover: Is It Eating Your Profits? How to Prevent the Brain Drain of Key Talent

Would you want to know more about stay interviews? As well as obtain the “10 Stay Interview Questions to Ask Your Employees”? Let me know. Let’s talk!

What’s Your Specific Challenge?

Simply EMAIL your questions to me (or enter them as in the Comment Section below) and I will provide answers that will build your leadership and management SMARTS

My motto is: “If you do what you always did, you will get what you always got. Therefore, MOVE outside of your comfort zone; that’s where the MAGIC happens. To bring that magic to your leadership Subscribe to “Coaching Clinic” Marcia’s monthly Execubrief with additional insights, intelligence, and inspiration on leadership and career topics.


Marcia Zidle
Marcia Zidle
Marcia Zidle, The Smart Moves Coach, is a national known board certified coach and keynote leadership speaker who guides organizations that are planning, or in the midst of, ambitious growth and change. As a career strategist, she works with professionals, managers and executives who want to build • shape • brand • change • vitalize their careers. She’s been selected by LinkedIn’s ProFinder as one of the best coaches for 2016!Her clients range from private owned businesses to mid-market companies to professional service firms to NGO’s. With 25 years of management, business consulting and international experience, she brings an expertise in executive and team leadership; employee engagement and innovation; personal and organization change; career building and development; emotional and social intelligence. Your Future Starts Now With Marcia!

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  1. I’m rarely surprised when someone quits. Usually they have a conflict with someone they’re working with. The conflict grows and heats up. Then there is that point the person acts out of character. They show anger when they usually didn’t. Or are calm when they normally show anger. It’s that change in behavior that shows they are considering and noodling through their options.

    If I were to use analytics, I would track the timing and duration that the person is working with their nemesis. Any significant changes in those usually is a precursor to leaving.

    • Chris, I think that conflict with someone can be a reason why people quit. At the same time, there are many others reasons. I know for others I’ve coached as well as for myself it’s because I saw better opportunity someplace else. Sometimes one feels stuck in a position even though they have looked within their company. So greener pastures are enticing for them.

    • When I talk to people that say they have a better opportunity, I discover with a deeper discussion they feel good moving to another employer because they feel this employer will treat them nicer than their old one.

      It’s sort of like you’re in a long term relationship with someone. Things sort of get stale, some fights occur, and you’re not getting the attention you used to be getting. Then comes along this other person that literally sweeps you off your feet giving you that attention you’ve been missing. It make you feel good. And you feel if you spend more time with this person, you’ll feel this good all the time.

      I find myself saying that “yes — the grass is greener on the other side. But remember, that grass is greener because it’s astroturf.”