Keeping up with -- The Employee

Today's guest blogger is Janis Strathearn, a Network Search Consultant with JKS Talent.


We are not in Kansas anymore. Here today……. Gone tomorrow…….

Employee turnover is on the rise and it is a very significant challenge for business, even more so during this candidate-driven market. Should your company be concerned about defecting employees?

Research has shown that people who are contemplating a job change are more likely to –

  • Share company secrets
  • Do things to sabotage the organization’s goals

Of course not all employees are malicious or leave to join a direct competitor, and not all employees use underhanded behavior on their exit. In most cases, employees may be moving on simply because an opportunity to radically improve their personal situation has presented itself. Some people even leave their jobs because of changes in their personal life. Occasional employee turnover is definitely a normal occurrence.

Money is the major reason to start seeking alternative employment, but it’s not the main one when it comes to what people are looking for in a new job.

The Changing Employee Mindset

Since the 2008 downturn in the economy, there are a number of employees who may have felt “stuck” in their jobs. We all know at least one of these people. It’s possible they hate their job, are bored with their job or just plain needed a job. These individuals may have felt there was nothing else for them to look at so walking off the job was not an option. Times have changed.


The results of recent studies done on worker dissatisfaction now all conclude that up to 33% of the employees report that they plan to make a job change in 2015. This is a compelling figure. In the current market conditions, more voluntary turnover should be expected.

What are the signs of an unsatisfied employee? Unfortunately, it isn’t always easy to identify these potential "movers" just by looking at them. REAL exit interviews are the very best way to discover why employees are leaving the company. And that is definitely a great subject to explore in another blog……

When the joy of the job’s gone, when it’s no fun trying anymore, quit – before you’re fired.

The Disengaged Employee

Recognizing dissatisfaction and low morale in employees is not always obvious to the “naked eye.” Very often the trouble signs are subtle – particularly in the beginning. Having said that, there are some common trends to consider. Some of these “signs” that may help clue in the observer to a potential problem – a problem that may or may not be able to be effectively addressed – before it’s too late. 


Experience has proven that communication is the single most important factor when dealing with employees – regardless of the situation. Regular communication helps avoid potential issues or provide the opportunity to face, and address, them effectively and promptly. Asking questions and actually “hearing” the responses helps determine next steps.

If an employee no longer likes the company atmosphere, suggest possible changes. If they’re looking for personal advancement, suggest in-house opportunities. If they have been passed over for a promotion, explain the situation and assist them in further development.

When disgruntled and disengaged employees are not recognized early enough, they may mentally quit their job but continue to stay on. This action will always negatively impact their colleagues. In the early days, an unhappy employee is not usually confrontational but they grumble. Remember, teammates are listening, productivity is lowered, morale is impacted and the company reputation can be impacted.

Can an unfortunate situation be turned around? It is worth a try. If not, it may be best to help these people along their way. This type of employee turnover may be the beneficial kind because the unhappy employee no longer fits into the company culture. If they are clever and resourceful, they may have effectively weeded themselves out by finding another job.

Be all in or get all out. There is no halfway.

Signs and Symptoms of Malcontent

Are you in danger of losing a key employee? Don’t be the last to know. There are always indications of dissatisfaction in the 4-8 weeks before an employee voluntarily hands in their notice. Note: every one of the signs listed below is applicable. I personally am not a strong supporter of the theory (or articles) that there are “X signs to look for….” Every situation is different.

To me, good communication and effective interaction with people is the very best guideline. Most employees who are looking to make a change are unhappy with their jobs for specific reasons – take a look inside the company.


Is the corporate culture healthy? Are salaries fair and equitable? Is management supportive? Do employees have all the tools they need to be successful in their work? Is there tension in the air? Micromanagement? Interpersonal difficulties? Broken commitments? Lack of acknowledgement and appreciation?

Sometimes the employer can help remedy the situation by fixing their own internal inadequacies; sometimes it is beyond the employer’s control. Openness, honesty and listening are what will make the difference by sharing options to remedy the situation.

Employees have personal lives too – which is something no employer should ever forget.

Missed reading the early symptoms?

If the earliest symptoms were not discovered, there may now be some actual signs of unhappy employees. Familiarize yourself with the variations of the six signs you may see on the horizon.

Poor Attendance / Absenteeism

How often is an employee absent on a Monday or a Friday? Is sick time, overtime and other paid time off being suddenly used up? How frequently is someone late for work? Are co-workers showing resentment at having to share the extra load? To be fair – sometimes this may also be an indication that the employee is dealing with pressing personal issues so do not hasten to misdiagnose the situation.

Slipping Quality of Work / Work Habits Change / Casual Attitude

Chances are an employee once consistently completed top-quality work, took complete responsibility in their area and showed true dedication. Is this person suddenly missing deadlines and has an apathetic attitude about it?

Has the employee grown tired of their work? Is inattention to detail and inaccurate work becoming a regular occurrence? Poor performance will directly impact the bottom line of the business, customer relationships, co-workers and work standards. The red flags are prolonged lapses in quality or efficiency. Sloppy work can be a strong indicator that someone is beginning to mentally check out.

Sometimes apathy can be brought on by personal stress, a change at the company or even a change in the employee’s expectations. Maybe the employee is tired of routine tasks or maybe they have completely disengaged from the company. Make the time to find out the underlying cause.

To be fair – an occasional slip-up could mean nothing. Every employee has a bad day now and again. An employee may be facing unrealistic expectations, high workload or may need more training. There could be a personal issue at home or a problem with a co-worker.

Change in Attitude / Increased Complaining / Vagueness

Employees who are passionate and engaged are concerned with the company’s future, project details, corporate direction and are looking for ways to add value. People who are not planning on being with the company for much longer tend to appear not interested in pushing themselves and may display a “whatever” attitude. Conversely, when an employee who is usually stressed complains less, it may be a sign that they have given up or have found something different.

Is the employee displaying signs of continual sullenness? Having bad temper outbreaks? Are instructions and suggestions no longer being followed? Is the person refusing requests from customers, managers and co-workers? Is there any sudden change in appearance or hygiene?

It is a very serious sign if a normally easy going employee starts complaining about each and every thing at the office, politics, working style, working conditions, co-workers, etc. As these feelings of unhappiness grow, they get harder and harder to hide.

To be fair – Some employees complain no matter what. This is their personality and part of their DNA. The seriousness, impact or change in their complaints is what should set off bells. Address the problem quickly and reassure the employee that their work is valued. Is it worth investing in their skills by offering additional training?

Segregation / Isolation / Disengagement from Other Employees / Minimal Interaction

An employee who covers up personal calls on work time, is frequently away from his or her desk or begins to seek solitude may be the time to open up a conversation. Continued strange behavior is a troubling sign. Although it can be personal issues that are conflicting with work, it may also mean this person has got one foot out the door.

One of the hardest parts about leaving a company is leaving the friends and acquaintances that have been made. Is someone distancing himself or herself from co-workers? Is a normally vocal, talkative and friendly employee all of a sudden is silent in meetings and no longer making contributions a reason to be alarmed? Could this be a sign the person’s already checked out and decided there’s no need to continue to feed personal or work relationships?

To be fair – Of course, there may be a personal issue an employee needs to deal with during the work day so don’t jump to conclusions. Don’t let the situation fester. Start the dialogue immediately.

Leaving Right on Time or Early

It is fairly unusual for any employee to suddenly begin showing up for work right on time and leave right on time. Often what goes along with this is doing “just enough” to keep his or her job—and no more. Employees that are in a hurry to leave may be heading to job interviews or may just be very discontent with work.

To be fair – have a casual conversation about hobbies, interests, children, etc. to hear if the employee has recently begun doing something regularly after work that may explain the eagerness to leave. Baseball practice, loss of a second car, change in transit schedules, etc. If the employee seems uncomfortable with the conversation, or do not give any solid reason for their eagerness to leave, they shouldn’t be pressed but the warning sign should be noted.

Major Life Changes / New Life Events

Life changes like marriage, divorce, the birth of a child, sudden illness, health-related crisis, ongoing medical treatment or the death of a family member may cause employees to rethink their priorities. Sometimes what was a minor aggravation in one’s work now suddenly kicks into overtime.

If employees are discontented with work or do not feel like their job is going anywhere, they may think that greener grass in their work lives will improve their sense of self or help them feel better in their personal lives. Opening a dialogue may be all it takes to win an excellent employee over once again.

Sometimes an employee who has been attending night school, part-time university or personal development programs graduates and suddenly feels unfulfilled, underutilized and overlooked. Keeping an open conversation going may help plan for options that prevent a defection. Obviously, there will always be some life events that take great employees away from a company.

Understanding why an employee is doing what they are doing may force a tough decision. While it’s preferred to keep good employees whenever possible, if it is discovered an employee really is intent on quitting, asking them to leave sooner rather than later may be the best option for all involved.

To be fair – all big life changes can alter one’s career or their attitude about it. Speaking with the employee about what is going on, expressing condolences or congratulations, will show the employee they are valued. This conversation may also help gauge desire to leave or if the employee is simply struggling at the moment. If you’d like to keep these employees, try giving them some time off or even a lightened workload for a short period.

“Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever.” – Lance Armstrong


Wrap up 

Turnover is a natural and expected part of doing business, however, today’s employers face higher turnover rates than at any other time in history. The days of handing out gold watches after 25 years of service are a thing of the past. Having said that, there are a number of things that keep employees happy, loyal and productive – and it doesn’t have to be that complicated. The four basic fundamental needs are recognition, appreciation, respect and fair compensation.

A day’s pay for a day’s work is more than adequate when both the work and the pay are appreciated as much as they are expected. ~ Cullen Hightower, American quotation and quip writer

It is never the best product, service or technology that makes a company sound and ensures its success. It is talented and impassioned people who are the heartbeat of great companies. These are the ones who are the toughest to replace.

If there is one single takeaway I’d like to leave you with, it is “keep the lines of communication open”. Encourage employees to come forward when they’re frustrated and provide staff opportunities to voice questions or concerns. When communication is at the forefront of a company’s culture, addressing small problems before they become big ones, is the best retention policy a company can master. Of course, there is no plan or approach that is fail proof. Maintaining a partnership with a trusted search consultant can help alleviate some of the pain when an employee leaves abruptly or a confidential search is required.

The right partner understands your culture, knows your business and where to go to find the fit for the appropriate replacement. A much more responsive and efficient way to get business back on track – as quickly as possible. Don’t wait until you have a hiring crisis to develop a relationship – build your partnerships in advance. You never know when your next major contributor may be on their way out the door.

Expect More than a Recruiter 


About JKS Talent Network_MG_2592_Copy

Simply put, JKS Talent Network Inc. provides a consultative and solution-focused strategic category of people services for your business. With management-level expertise and a resourceful nature, Janis streamlines your search for exceptional talent. If you seek a talent search consultant with a proven track record of finding great talent, bringing the right people together and building results-focused solutions for your organization, contact JKS Talent Network by email or call (604) 731-2073.




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