17 signs someone might be about to quit their job

So long, friend.

So long, friend.
Gleb Leonov/Strelka Institute/Flickr

  • Your coworker has started taking extra-long lunches, seems to be coming to work every day in a suit, and stopped joking around so much.
  • Those are all common signs that they might be about to quit their job.
  • As career experts explained to Business Insider, one or several employees leaving the workplace can destabilize how your team functions.

Most bosses are caught off guard when facing a mass employee exodus, and the same can happen when just one valued employee resigns.

“As the boss, it’s important to watch for the symptoms of an impending departure so you can address the issues before it’s too late,” said 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.”

And a co-worker’s departure – or several co-workers’ departures – can quickly destabilize operations.

“Losing employees can create a substantial impact on everything from service delivery to scheduling,” Michael Kerr, an international business speaker and author of “The Humor Advantage,” said. “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, so the more time a manager has to prepare for the changes, the better.”

Taylor and Kerr shared 17 signs that your coworkers might be about to quit. Remember, however, that these are possible signs and indicators, not concrete proof that an employee is about to leave the company.

These are the signs you should watch out for so you can act before it’s too late:

There’s a change in their appearance

Alton Lane

If they start dressing unusually sharply, it may be because they are slipping out to job interviews during or after work, Kerr said.

The opposite might also happen.

“If someone is unhappy in their job, they may begin to dress down because they feel that no one is really paying attention anyway – or because they just don’t really care anymore,” Taylor said.

They start taking more time off


Folks who are liable to quit soon may begin calling in sick more often. They might use up their vacation days in bits and pieces, which could suggest that they are using the time off to search for other employment, Kerr said.

“And using up their sick days and vacation time (and even getting a lot of dental work done suddenly) might be a red flag that they are getting ready to jump ship and want to make sure they max out any benefits they feel owed to them,” he added.

They show a drop off in any interest in work

Mikhail Goldenkov/Strelka Institute/Flickr

Have you noticed that some of your coworkers have stopped offering suggestions or ideas at meetings, they offer little input into new projects, or seem suddenly disinterested in any of the broader details related to work?

“This can be a sign they’ve lost their mojo and no longer really care what happens down the road because they know they won’t be there in the future,” Kerr said.

They lack a sense of humor

Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design/Flickr

Employees who are about to bail may no longer joke around.

“Their demeanor is more straightforward and factual versus friendly and lighthearted,” Taylor said. “Perhaps this is because they’re less worried about appearing supportive or trying to impress anyone.”

They seem guilty


Body language or facial expressions might give hints that your coworker is feeling guilty, because they’ve been job hunting and they know that they are not sticking around for the long run, Kerr said.

They always seem like they’re having a bad day

Gleb Leonov/Strelka Institute/Flickr

Do you feel a sudden chill when you talk to a certain coworker?

“The first few times, you chalk it up to their having a bad day. Then you notice it … more frequently,” Taylor said.

They’re just unpleasant to be around

Gleb Leonov/Strelka Institute/Flickr

They may become more irritable, or they may make more sarcastic comments than normal about work-related issues, revealing a lack of fundamental belief in the direction the company is headed, Kerr said.

There are changes in their behavior

Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design/Flickr

If they are acting differently – maybe they’re suddenly keeping to themselves more and more, or they begin going out to lunch with coworkers every day – the employee may be pulling away from work or commiserating with colleagues.

“If a group of team members who rarely went to lunch together before are now doing so, they may be discussing their plans to move on,” Taylor said. “Seeing new behavior in who goes to lunch and how often, however, is certainly no cause for concern if other signs are not evident.”

Something major is changing in their daily life

If there’s a major disruption in their family life, this may lead to them looking for new opportunities for a host of reasons (to be closer to home, for example, or to work in a less stressful environment), Kerr said.

Their productivity drops

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If your coworker is suddenly late getting reports in, or their sales have fallen enough that it seems unusual, something might be going on.

“Any behavioral changes that point to ‘presenteeism’ – the phenomenon of employees showing up at work without being fully present – are huge red flags,” Kerr said.

They approach conflict differently

Nenad Aksic / Shutterstock

When people are ready to bolt, they may change how they handle disagreements.

“If they tended to push back before, they may no longer do so because they don’t feel it’s worth the bother,” Taylor said. “They have emotionally checked out.”

However, someone who was generally agreeable before may become more argumentative out of frustration or resentment, she said.

They’re uncomfortable discussing long-term projects and deadlines

Gleb Leonov/Strelka Institute/Flickr

If your employees are seeking greener pastures, they will become visibly uncomfortable discussing projects that are several months out, says Taylor. “When longer-term deadlines involve them directly, they’ll attempt to be noncommittal or vague.”

Rumors are flying


If your coworkers approach you with concerns that something’s changed or “something’s going on” with a specific employee or group of people, they may be on to something.

“Other colleagues closer to the action may read the signs well before you do, so if they bring concerns forward, pay attention,” Kerr said.

They stay under the communications radar

“If your team members are contemplating resignation, they’re less likely to communicate often – by email, in person, or in general,” Taylor said.

Their schedule suddenly changes


When they start keeping unusual hours – working later, arriving late, shifting their hours in any noticeable way – it could be because they are searching for work or interviewing with other employers while still trying to balance their current workload, Kerr said.

You inquire about possible issues, but get little feedback


Do they seem closed off? Are they not willing to work through issues with you?

“If one of your team members or several of them already have one foot out the door, they’ll act as if nothing is wrong when you address any issues,” Taylor said. This may be because they have already shut down and mentally moved on.

You have a bad gut feeling


If you feel awkward moments in your office more often or a discomfort around one or several coworkers you can’t explain, this may be a sign they’re about to quit.

“Your instincts count for a lot and most people don’t put enough stock in them,” Taylor said. “Instead, they second-guess themselves.”

Trust your gut. There’s a good chance it’s right.