7 Signals That Someone Is About to Quit

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When it comes to career categories full of people who are prone to quitting, few can match either consulting or high tech. Since I spent the bulk of my career in those two worlds, I’ve learned a few things about resignations along the way.

The reasons why people are apt to quit consulting and high tech are well-documented. In the world of consulting the reason is often too much travel. As any road warrior knows, business travel can be interesting in the beginning but it gets old very fast. Not to mention how it cuts into the social life of a young person. Then there is the pressure of billable time and the stress of project completion. As one young person told me when she was quitting, “There are easier ways to earn a living.”

The high tech world is full of people quitting because those same people have so many opportunities. Where there are lots of choices for more money, there is lots of quitting.

Having accepted so many resignations, there are a few things I’ve learned along the way. Here are just a few:

  • If someone wants to meet on a Friday afternoon and says, “It will only take five minutes,” assume that person is about to quit. It’s better not to wait until Friday; get it over with.
  • Team engagement can be measured in the number of emails sent. Anyone with email production that drops in a big way is losing interest and will quit soon.
  • Anyone who does not want to participate in interviewing candidatesmeans they don’t want to try to sell someone on an organization they will soon be leaving. It won’t be long.
  • When family and personal photos start to disappear gradually from the workspace, a letter of resignation will soon follow.
  • The person who takes “personal time off” but never for an entire day is probably interviewing. That is the colleague who takes half days off or says, “I am going to be a little late” is not long for his or her current work world.
  • Those people standing in the hall or the bathroom on their cellphone may not be chatting with Mom. The call might be an iPhone interview. (But could also be a sign they are ending a relationship, which might be even worse.)
  • Absence from the company holiday party or annual picnic might not be that important, but it could mean too that a quitter is developing. Or maybe not.

Of course, there are some very definitive signals that leave no doubt about imminent departures. Spouse transfers and winning lottery tickets might be the top two.

I’ve learned too that if someone quits, it is useless to try to talk that person into staying. In many ways a resignation is like a romantic breakup. When your boyfriend or girlfriend says, “I don’t love you anymore,” responding with “Yes you do!” doesn’t make a lot of sense. The same is true in a resignation situation.

The first time I resigned from a job I was a nervous wreck. My speech was prepared, and I went into the resignation meeting with a list of things that needed to be done after I left. It was like a list you would hand a neighbor when you’re about to go on vacation. There was no need, I left and, shockingly, they did just fine without me.

There is no disgrace in submitting a resignation. It happens a million times every day. Make it a short meeting, don’t look back, don’t burn any bridges, and get excited about the next big thing.

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