The job market in many parts of the United States and the world is shifting for the better. I have a number of clients and colleagues who are voluntarily choosing to make a move, often for more money and a better title. It should put all of us who work with and for others on constant alert.

It always amazes me when people say they had “no idea” when a valued employee informs them they are leaving the organization. Here are some tried and true indicators. In the next issue I will discuss some potential rescue remedies.

Change in Attitude: If individuals who work for you are suddenly lighter, maybe they are in love or maybe they are imagining somewhere else. It’s that feeling of liberation and excitement you are witnessing. The same is true if individuals seem negative when they generally take a positive approach. Many times this is an indicator they are trying to separate emotionally and attempting to convince themselves that “This is no longer the place for me.”

Short-Term Focus: When strategic thinkers are putting off or refusing to discuss long-term projects and goals, it is a warning sign they have no intention of being part of the future. The same is true when an employee attempts to push decisions or actions to a later date.

Avoidance: People on the way out will avoid contact with you because most people, thankfully, are terrible liars. They believe if they stay away, you won’t suspect, or worse, confront them. They will share less in a meeting, if they attend at all. The person may stop traveling or divert commitments. Basically, they’re trying to be invisible.

Change in Appearance: Depending on the dress code in your place, this is either an easy clue or something harder to decipher. Everyone knows dressing up in any form means someone is going on an interview. I once had a boss who told me he was leaving. I replied, “I know.” “How could you have known?” he asked. “Your wore your good suits three times in the last week and it wasn’t a Board meeting and no one died, so I figured you were on an interview and negotiating” He was stunned. I wasn’t.

The reverse of this is when people start dressing more casual than usual. They no longer have anything to prove and dressing down is a bit of a vacation before they’re back into the work outfit.

Neat Workspace: Whether it is a desktop, photos, cubicle décor, or just less junk in the workspace, cleaning up is often an excellent sign someone is not long in your world. Okay, if the person is neat by nature, this may be more subtle but not invisible. A more obvious hint is when a person starts taking things home or e-mailing personal files to a personal account.

Time Off: The person who is never sick and seems to handle their personal affairs on off hours suddenly is taking personal or sick time. You know you have a no carryover policy and so do they, so they’re going to take the time they feel they’ve earned. The same is true for working late or on weekends — it’s not happening because they are halfway out the door.

We Becomes You: It’s a small change in language but an important one. The employee begins to talk about others as if he/she was not a part of the group or prickles when his or her name is included in an idea.

I’m sure there are many more signs and symptoms we could share. All are about vigilance and observing changes in behavior. The bigger question is, “What can I do about it?” I am a firm believer that no one is lost until they are out of the company at least two weeks. Granted, you don’t want to get into a re-hire situation but there is that time when the person is still interviewing, negotiating, or even sitting in front of you and telling you, “I’ve accepted another position” that you can change the outcome.

We’ll discuss these next time.

(c) Jane Cranston.

Author's Bio: 

Jane Cranston is an executive career coach. She works with success-driven executives, managers and leaders to reach their potential, better manage their boss and staff, as well as develop a career strategy to reach goals and aspirations. Jane is the author of Great Job in Tough Times a step-by-step job search system. Click here to subscribe to her twice monthly Competitive Edge Report.