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USU study identifies signs an employee might quit soon

By Celeste Tholen Rosenlof | Posted - Feb 24th, 2014 @ 10:15am

LOGAN – A Utah State University researcher has come up with a checklist that employers could use to predict whether or not an employee may be leaving soon.

Tim Gardner, a USU associate professor at the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business, says the signs an employee is about to leave may not be those one might think. Clocking out as soon as they can, taking vacations and even looking for other jobs on company time are not the best indicators a person will quit soon, he said. Rather, the level of engagement at work can best predict a person’s status.

“People having a lot of ‘doctor’s appointments,’ showing up to work in a suit, or leaving a résumé on the printer were the kind of signs that dropped off the list,” Gardner said in a press release. “You might think that someone who starts showing up to work late, failing to return phone calls and emails, and taking lots of sick days might be about to leave, but those weren’t unique behaviors that applied only to the quitters.”

Gardner suggests the following changes in behavior as the best indicators:

  • They offer fewer constructive contributions
  • They show reluctance to commit to long-term projects
  • They act reserved and quiet
  • They show less interest in advancing in the company
  • They are less interested in pleasing their boss than in the past
  • They avoid social interactions with management
  • They offer fewer new ideas or innovative approaches
  • They perform minimal amount of work
  • They are less interested in participating in training and development
  • Their work productivity goes down

Across three studies using seven different samples, Gardner and his colleagues found that an employee exhibiting at least six of these behavioral changes were about to leave. The team was able to predict an employee’s intention to quit with 80 percent accuracy using these signs.

“It appears that a person’s attitude can create behaviors that are hard to disguise,” he said. “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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