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USU study: 10 signs employees may exhibit before they quit

Published February 27, 2014 7:22 am

Study • But don't read too much into Joe in the next cubicle wearing a clean shirt on Monday.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Does the guy in the cubicle next to you always look bored, unengaged and unmotivated? Well, he might be motivated to do one thing ­— look for another job.

Those are just some of the tell-tale signs that an employee is looking to jump ship from the company, according to a new study by Tim Gardner, associate professor of management at Utah State University's Jon M. Huntsman School of Business.

"When people are thinking about leaving and actively working toward leaving, it's kind of like leading a double life," he said about those dissatisfied with their jobs. "Your real feelings are that you want to leave the job. Your real behaviors are you're taking action to leave. But at work you're hiding your real behaviors and real feelings."

So a disgruntled employee will try and keep those feelings to him or herself. But Gardner has learned that certain behavioral cues will leak out and reveal signs that the person wants to leave.

Gardner, who worked with Huntsman professor Steve Hanks and Chad H. Van Iddekinge of Florida State University on the study, discovered those cues through a series of studies that occurred over a year. In one phase of his research, he interviewed more than 200 employee managers about certain employees in their office.

From that research, he learned that seemingly obvious signs that someone might be leaving — they walk into work with a suit on, take a lot of vacation or sick days, or they leave their resume on their desk — are in fact not telling signs.

Instead, he came up with a list of 10 other behavioral cues that might be more accurate, though he cautions that employers should not use this list as a way to pinpoint disgruntled employees.

"If a manager definitely notices six of those 10 behaviors, I'm confident within 80 percent accuracy on whether they will stay or leave," Gardner said. "But I don't want people to see this and think they can determine if someone will stay or walk out the door. It's good but not perfect."

Here are the 10 signs that employees may exhibit one or two months before they might leave their job:

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• They offer fewer constructive ideas in meetings.

http://local.sltrib.com/charts/telltale/telltale-signs-projects.jpg"; alt="Less projects" width="360">

• They are more reluctant to commit to long-term projects.

http://local.sltrib.com/charts/telltale/telltale-signs-quiet.jpg"; alt="More quiet" width="360">

• They become more reserved and quiet.

http://local.sltrib.com/charts/telltale/telltale-signs-advance.jpg"; alt="Advance" width="360">

• They become less interested in advancing in the company.

http://local.sltrib.com/charts/telltale/telltale-signs-boss.jpg"; alt="Boss" width="360">

• They are less interested in pleasing their boss.

http://local.sltrib.com/charts/telltale/telltale-signs-social.jpg"; alt="less social" width="360">

• They avoid social interactions with their boss and other members of management.

http://local.sltrib.com/charts/telltale/telltale-signs-ideas.jpg"; alt="No ideas" width="360">

• They suggest fewer new ideas or innovative suggestions.

http://local.sltrib.com/charts/telltale/telltale-signs-work.jpg"; alt="Work" width="360">

• They skate by doing the minimum amount of work needed and no longer are motivated to go beyond the call of duty.

http://local.sltrib.com/charts/telltale/telltale-signs-training.jpg"; alt="Training" width="360">

• They are less interested in participating in training programs to improve themselves.

http://local.sltrib.com/charts/telltale/telltale-signs-productivity.jpg"; alt="Less productivity" width="360">

• Their work productivity goes down.


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