There are plenty of subtle -; and not so subtle -; signs someone who works for you is about to jump ship.
If you're sensing that one of your most valuable employees has one foot out the door, you'll want to address any issues and try to turn things around before it's too late.
Michael Kerr, an international business speaker and author of "The Humor Advantage," says losing even just one employee can have a significant affect on many aspects of your business. "It can impact the culture in a team in a negative way. And there's a substantial cost and time commitment involved in replacing and training new employees," he says.
Here's what to do when you realize someone you work with is about to resign:
Gather facts before approaching them.
You don't want to become paranoid--or worse, wrongly accuse anyone of disloyalty.
"Try to approach an employee or another manager with whom you have a trusted relationship, and ask for their general perspective," says Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert and the author of "Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant: How to Manage Childish Boss Behavior and Thrive in Your Job."
"Start with big picture-related questions, and as you earn their confidence, ask for greater detail."
If it comes down to an exit interview, it's too late, says Kerr.
"Great leaders have what I call 'what'll keep you here?' interviews instead of exit interviews," he says. "Regular feedback, check-ins, and honest conversations about how work is going should be an ongoing practice for any leader who wants to reduce employee turnover rates. Ask them what their on and off switches are (motivators and de-motivators) at work -; you may be surprised at how easily some of their concerns can be addressed."
Have an honest conversation ... but don't make them feel threatened.
The earlier you inquire about potential issues, the better, Taylor says. "But employees will have their guard up and may be afraid of jeopardizing their jobs, so it's critical to make them feel safe about sharing real problems."
Kerr suggests you have an honest conversation away from the office in neutral territory where they'll likely feel more comfortable opening up and saying what needs to be said.
"Express your concerns about the things you've noticed, and ask them outright if they are thinking about leaving -; but not in an accusatory tone which might only cause them to shut down. Instead, use a tone than conveys you're concerned about their life and their well-being. Tell them how much you value their work and why ... and be specific."
If they do admit they are looking for other jobs, then explore the reasons why and what options are available to address their concerns, he says.
Put yourself in their shoes and think about your behavior as a manager.
Part of the problem may be that your employees no longer feel valued or noticed. Perhaps they feel like you're micromanaging them or are too demanding.
Take a step back, look in the mirror, and do some self-reflection. Think about what you may be doing that's driving this employee away. Consider how your behavior is affecting their happiness or success, and think about ways to change it.
The onus is on you to reverse any "damage" you've done by actively getting them engaged in meaningful ways, sooner versus later, says Taylor.
Ask them for feedback on your performance.
After you reflect, ask your employees for feedback.
This might be a difficult conversation for both of you, but showing that you are open and receptive to changing and receiving feedback might alleviate their concerns, especially if they were thinking of leaving because of your management style, Kerr explains.
Speak with actions, not just words.
Once you notice what's going, ask for feedback, and decide to make changes, you can't just make verbal promises to your employees that things will improve or that you'll do things differently going forward. You need to show them ... and you need alter your behaviors immediately.
Have a conversation about their goals and future career plans.
In this discussion, ask what training they feel they need or what opportunities in the company might be of interest to them, says Kerr.
"Getting them to open up about their long-term plans will demonstrate you care about their career and their advancement opportunities and that you are supportive of them evolving in their position -; and that may be all they are waiting to hear."
Express genuine gratitude.
No manager should reward bad behavior, a visible lack of commitment, or poor performance.
"That said, if your team feels unappreciated, it's time for a heart-to-heart talk that addresses their value to the department and company," explains Taylor. "If your efforts aren't genuine, or appear to be a stop-gap measure, however, it can do more harm than good."
Open up and be vulnerable with them about your own concerns about work.
"The more transparent and vulnerable you are with your employees, the more likely they are to open up with you about any future plans to leave the organization," Kerr says.
Inform other managers of your concerns if you share staff.
Many organizations have matrix structures where employees report to more than one boss. Check in with fellow managers to uncover any problems and discuss possible solutions, Taylor suggests.
"If the issues run deep and are part of a poor work culture, management's efforts will take commitment and time to produce results," she says. "The problems likely did not happen over night, nor will the solutions. Human Resources may be aware of issues behind the scenes that can be addressed company-wide."
Make them feel more like an 'insider.'
Any good leader should be doing this consistently anyway, but sharing details about the future of the company might help keep the employee interested and engaged, and offer them a greater sense of ownership in the company, says Kerr.
Consider conducting an audit to measure and build morale.
If you're concerned about more than one employee leaving, there might be a bigger issue.
"Depending on the size of your company and training budget, it may be useful to have an HR or management consulting team work with your executives and staff," Taylor says. "They can anonymously gauge the sentiments of your team, help you independently manage a 360-degree review process, and identify steps that will lead to a more motivated and productive workforce."
Ensure that you're creating a trusted workplace.
"One of the biggest triggers of poor morale is an environment that shows little trust for its team," Taylor explains. "When management appears inflexible to new ideas or chastises people for mistakes, mistrust festers, innovation dissipates and employees run. Be sure you're fostering an environment that is more focused on 'we' than 'me.'"
When employees are given a chance to thrive based on merit (not favoritism)--and the team works towards common, larger goals (sans face-saving maneuvers)--they will be far more committed for the long term. "You'll be creating a trusted, humanized workplace that's safe for success," she says.
Decide if fighting for them is really the best move.
Having to replace an employee can be an expensive headache ... and finding someone great isn't always easy. But if this person wasn't bringing all that much to the table, perhaps you should consider letting them go.
Or, even if they were an incredible asset, but they have a great reason for leaving, ask yourself if you really need to confuse things for the employee by fighting for them to stay.
For instance, if you realize they're quitting because they've been offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you know they'd be stupid to pass up, you should offer your congratulations and support, says Kerr.
If, however, you find out they're wanting to resign because they can't stand the other members of their team, there might be an easy solution, and you should do what you can to help solve the problem.