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The Oft-missed, Surefire Sign Your Employee is About to Quit

Many years ago, I was in a meeting with two of my bosses (I actually had 3 at the time) when I was informed that they had made a very ill-informed decision. When I presented my objections to the decision, I was informed it was none of my business, and that I should keep quiet and go along to get along.

Obviously, this is not great leadership. In fact, it goes against everything I’ve been banging on about for years on this blog (and in my book and with my clients and in my training sessions).

Back then, I also knew that this was not great leadership. And in a moment that has been etched into my memory ever since, I felt a profound shift. Something clicked. I swear to this day, I actually heard that click.

And then a thought arose.

“I don’t have to work here anymore.”

And that was it.

I detached.

I still went to work every day. I still did my best. But I wasn’t emotionally there anymore. It was over. Or rather, I was over it. I dusted off my resume and never looked back.

And it seems in this age of disruption and change and ambiguity, a lot of people are over it. More than 50% of my coaching clients are either in a new job or seeking one. Just last week, a client informed me that she’s “detached” from her boss. “I don’t know what’s next, but it’s only a matter of time now.”

The great resignation is alive and well.

The thing is though, knowing these clients as I do, I believe most of them could have been saved, if only their bosses had noticed the detachment, and done something about it.

Signs Your Employee Has Detached

It used to be the signs were obvious, such as a flurry of “doctor’s appointments” on days when an employee happens to be more sharply dressed than normal. But in the era of Zoom meetings, the signals are a lot murkier.

Here’s what to look for:

They continue to do the basics well, but no longer come to you with new ideas.

They don’t get excited about new projects the way they used to.

They’ve stopped arguing about things you know they disagree with you on.

They seem to feel less desire to impress you.

Their emails are shorter, they don’t joke around like they used to, they just seem distant.

What to do:

Just talk to them. It sounds simple and obvious, but it’s amazing how few bosses take the time to do this. They make assumptions about what the employee wants, throw money and titles around, or simply throw their hands up in the air and decide they’re a lost cause.

This is both costly and disruptive. And it’s letting a prime opportunity to gather crucial information slip by.

Here’s where to start:

6 Questions to Help You Save a Detached Employee

1. What’s great right now (this project, our team, your job, etc.)?

2. What’s not perfect yet?

3. What’s most important for you in the next 6 months?

4. What skills/capabilities do you want to develop?

5. What do you want more of?

6. What do you want less of?

If you ask these questions, you’ll most definitely learn a lot. There’s on caveat though. Once you have the information, you have to act on it. And if you lack the power or resources to do so effectively, maybe it’s time to think about your own job situation.

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