When employees quit, some employers are left wondering what they could’ve done differently.
Being able to identify both subtle and obvious signs of an unhappy employee before they quit gives employers an opportunity to rectify the situation, which is usually in the best interest of both parties.
For employers, it reduces turnover and decreases the likelihood of negative sentiment spreading. For employees, it gives creates the opportunity to voice their concerns and work with management to find a solution.
Here are some common signs that could indicate an employee is unhappy with their job:
1. Changes in appearance
If an employee used to put in more effort in their appearance (attire, hygiene, etc.) and have suddenly stopped, it may be a sign of disinterest or giving up at work.
On the other hand, if an employee suddenly dresses more professionally or formally, that could mean that they’re attending job interviews elsewhere.
2. Taking more time off
Sometimes, taking more time off is related to personal matters and has nothing to do with an employee’s satisfaction with their job.
However, if an employee suddenly begins taking a significant amount of time off without explanation, it’s worth considering that they could be experiencing burnout or dissatisfaction.
3. Disengagement in company activities
If an employee who used to frequently attend company events (e.g. holiday parties, game nights, volunteer days, etc.) starts skipping them, they might be feeling disconnected from company culture and/or their job as a whole.
4. Disengagement in professional development opportunities
If your company offers professional development opportunities such as training sessions, workshops, and participation in conferences, those in attendance are likely engaged employees. An employee who used to show up to these events but stops doing so may be losing interest in their job.
Similarly, if a qualified employee chooses not to apply for a promotion, they could be disengaged and/or looking for work elsewhere.
5. Decreased productivity or quality of work
Carelessness, indifference, and doing just enough to get by are signs of defeat and disengagement — particularly if the employee used to put significant effort into their work.
An employee in this position may be unsure of their value to the organization or feel that their work has gone unappreciated in the past, adopting a “why bother?” attitude as a result.
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6. Changes in attitude
Keep an eye out for employees who used to have a positive, enthusiastic attitude about work, but now seem bored or unhappy.
If someone is frequently complaining about work to coworkers, showing signs of irritability, or making negative comments about the company, they’re more than likely dissatisfied with their work.
7. Lack of feedback or new ideas
Facebook recently reported that employees who don’t fill out either of the company’s two annual surveys are 2.6 times more likely to leave within the next six months.
Especially when asked for feedback, most engaged employees will have something to say, whether it’s constructive criticism, a possible solution to a problem, or appreciation for something that works well.
When an employee reacts with total indifference, however, that could mean they feel like there’s no point in offering feedback, perhaps because they believe that leadership won’t take their concerns seriously.
8. Negative body language
Negative body language can be an early indicator that an employee is dissatisfied with their job. Look for signs like closed off posture (e.g. crossed arms, head down), lack of eye contact, eye-rolling, and frustrated sighing.
Body language can also help you identify particularly stressed employees who are at risk for burning out. An employee who is excessively biting their lip, chewing on their nails, rubbing the back of their neck, or playing with their hair is probably experiencing increased stress.
As you keep an eye out for these warning signs, it’s important to remember that each employee is different and may have any number of stressors in their personal life. Not everything is about job dissatisfaction.
Some people are more extroverted and enthusiastic by nature, while others tend to be quiet and reserved — it doesn’t necessarily mean that they hate their job or are about to quit.
The key is to understand your employees’ baseline attitudes and behaviors in order to identify significant changes and track satisfaction over time.
Once you identify red-flag behavior and gather employee satisfaction information, you can make a plan to address negative feedback, and — hopefully — rectify the situation to mend relationships with disengaged employees.
Read the 2019 Employee Engagement Report to learn more about how to keep employees engaged and satisfied. Download the report.