If a key employee was about to leave, would you recognize the signs? A recent study at Utah State University (USU) found that employees about to leave their jobs give very clear cues that they're about to go-;but they're not the ones you might think.

Instead of taking more vacation time or leaving at 5 p.m. every day, employees getting ready to quit are more likely to show disengagement from the workplace. They don't participate in meetings, stop contributing new ideas, and just do enough work to get by. Sadly, by the time employees exhibit these behaviors, it probably too late for you to make a difference or to change their minds.

The best way for you to retain your employees is to stay in touch with them and address their concerns before they start looking for other options.

Here are the four most common complaints employees have before they leave a company.


I feel distant from my colleagues.

We're not saying you have to become best friends with your employees, but you should take some time to get to know them. After all, you do spend much of your day together.

In fact, the average American works 1,703.55 hours annually, according to The Federal Reserve Economic Data (FRED). With so much of their life spent at the office, it's only natural for your employees to want to develop positive relationships with those around them.

Pay close attention to how you communicate with your employees. Can you put names to faces? Do you ask them about their hobbies or interests? Do you recognize their work or provide the feedback that they need?

While it may seem trivial to you, to them, it shows that you recognize they're more than just bodies filling chairs in your office. It shows that you care. Your employees will be more willing to go the extra mile for you if they feel that management really cares about them.

Similarly, when your employees have sour relationships or no relationships with coworkers, they may feel bullied or isolated. And feuding employees can be distracting to everyone in the office. Such environments undermine employee engagement, confidence and commitment.

Pay attention to your employees' relationships with one another, and intervene if you see problems. Can you separate adversaries or help employees find a common goal to work toward together?

I'm not doing meaningful work

Employees want to enjoy their jobs and have a chance to contribute. They want to feel a sense of pride and accomplishment about their work, so help them develop and grow their skills. Help them understand why their work has meaning for your company and how it connects to overall company goals. If they're bored or not challenged, help them find their passion.

Talk to them; find out what they want to do within your company. Do they have ideas that could help grow your business? Based on this information, look for ways to help them create a development plan so that they have a clear path to success. Employees who are excited to come to work will be more engaged.

I don't fit in

What are your company's core values? What kind of work environment do you maintain? What do most of your employees like most about working for company? This is your company culture.

If your corporate culture doesn't match your employees' personalities, it will be difficult for them to be as productive and engaged as others might be. You can train job skills, but you can't change a persons' character.

There are steps you can take to help ensure that you're hiring employees who mesh with your corporate culture:

  • Assess your corporate culture. Know what your company's "sizzle" factor is. What sets your company apart from others?
  • Don't use generic job descriptions. Culture sets the tone of your company's messaging and should be your goal for advertised job openings.
  • Ask cultural fit interview questions. Examples are, "Tell me what your ideal environment feels like," or "Of your past work experiences, which was your favorite position, and why?"

Cultural fit is vitally important for a solid workforce. It ensures that your employees collaborate and use their skills in a way that supports others.

I'm not recognized for my work

On its own, this may not be a top reason for employees to leave, but it can be the deciding factor when it's combined with other reasons.

Appreciation and recognition for a job well done don't need to be elaborate, expensive undertakings. A simple "good job on that project" or small gestures, such as lunch with the boss, are always appreciated. Or maybe it's making it a habit of pointing out their hard work in a meeting or in front of their peers.

Providing genuine appreciation and recognition can be the "cherry on top" for most employees.


Don't wait until your employees have disengaged from your company to ask how to stem the tide. Instead of reacting to disengagement by recruiting and hiring new employees, develop a proactive strategy to retain the employees you already have. To learn how, read How to Develop a Top-notch Workforce That Will Accelerate Your Business.