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5 Performance Issues that Signal Your Teammate is About to Quit

by | Nov 20, 2017 | approachable leadership

When Performance Starts to Slip

Jason’s one of those guys you can count on. Not flashy or a top performer. But reliable and consistent. He does his job and contributes to the stability of the ship.

Recently though, you’ve noticed Jason’s performance slip. It’s not so bad that you’re going to write him up or anything. But you have to double check his work – too many mistakes. What’s more, you now have to remind him to do things that used to be automatic. It’s annoying.

What’s going on with Jason? You know it may be nothing – it’s not the first time you’ve seen this. There was that time he was distracted because of an issue with one of his kids. Or the time he was having problems with Mike over the quality check process. Maybe it’s something like that.

Or maybe Jason is on his way out the door.

Gallup recently found that, on average, 51% of people are actively looking for work elsewhere. Which isn’t that surprising, given what Gallup has shown about employee engagement.

Drops in performance are one of the key indicators an employee is thinking about jumping ship.

Here are 5 Performance Issues that Signal Turnover Intention

Work Productivity Decreases

This is the easiest one to recognize because at some point, your employee’s decreased output creates more work for you. Like with Jason. His lack of focus means you spend more time double checking his work. Or reminding him about that deadline. Like you need something else on your to-do list. That’s not good for anyone.

I could advise you to jump in and have a performance discussion every time this happens. But let’s be realistic. You’re busy. Performance discussions take time you don’t have. They’re one of those “crucial” (uncomfortable) conversations that are easy to avoid. Soon this commitment will find itself on the “good intentions” pile. Or turn you into that micromanager we all know and love. (Not.)

Instead of committing to discuss every productivity drop, notice when you’ve started picking up the slack or getting annoyed. That’s your signal something’s up. It’s time for a quick chat. But don’t make this about you. Instead, start with one of the Approachable Leadership Coaching Question (like, “Do you have what you need?”) You can bring up the productivity drop at some point if that seems helpful. But the most important thing is to figure out what’s happening. Is it a personal issue? An issue with a coworker? Or maybe your employee is slowly checking out. Regardless of the real reason behind the productivity drop it’s time to leader-up. Make some for a quick chat and dive in.

Doing the Minimum Amount of Work

Maybe you haven’t started picking up slack. But it is clear that your teammate isn’t pushing to improve. He’s getting comfortable with work that’s just “good enough.”

We all do work that’s just good enough sometimes. And that’s okay. Sometimes it’s necessary to cut yourself some slack. But when cutting yourself some slack becomes the “new normal” it’s no longer a sanity check. It’s a sign that you just don’t care as much as you used to.

When someone stops caring about their work quality it’s another signal. They are detaching their work from how they feel about themselves. They aren’t associating closely with the work or the company. Perhaps they’re thinking about a future somewhere else. And that is a great time to ask another Approachable Leadership Coaching Question: “What’s next?” Look for ways to help them connect their own personal growth back to their work and to the company.

Less Effort and Work Motivation

During your weekly huddle meeting to discuss top priority items, you notice someone who used to jump at opportunities to be involved has stopped volunteering. She avoids eye contact or hides out when you ask for ideas. It’s as if she’s afraid that if she has a good one, she might be asked to do something about it.

Have you seen this before? I know I have. And unfortunately, sometimes I shrug it off. After all, your employee isn’t doing anything wrong. Nagging her about not stepping up could make her feel you’re calling her out. Then you risk an actual performance problem.

But this change in behavior is still a signal something’s not right. No, she hasn’t “done something wrong” but the change in motivation is worth a closer look. After all, it’s a good sign she’s not engaged. And some people’s “disengaged” work is still pretty darn good – right up until they give their notice. A good coaching question here is, “What would make work better?” Whether this is a temporary struggle or sign of a deeper issue, it’s up to you to find out. Especially if it’s someone you want to keep around.

Less Focus on Job Related Matters

And then you have the “I’d rather not talk about work” attitude. Which is quite the tell-tale sign. Especially when…you’re at work.

Really this is a symptom that an employee is just having a hard time caring. Which doesn’t necessarily mean she’s trying to hit the road. But it does mean she likely has other, more important things on her mind. Maybe these other things are your normal, temporary life issues. But it’s also possible she’s working out her next move. And as we discussed in our last retention article, there’s a lot for a person to consider when they’re thinking about quitting their job. It leaves little room for, or interest in, dealing with current work and workplace issues.

Expressed Dissatisfaction with their Current Job

I know I said a productivity drop is the easiest sign to recognize. But this one – when your teammate tells you they’re not happy or feel they’re missing something – that’s when you know for sure. Whether they say it or not, they’re considering leaving.

Of course, thinking and doing are two different things. But if this isn’t someone you don’t want to lose, then it’s time for a sit-down. Diagnose the problem. Find out what you can do to help them. Is it the work that’s not engaging? Is their current schedule causing a problem? Perhaps a financial issue? Whatever it is, the first step is to find out if it’s something you can help with. And if it is? Then help.

On the flip side, maybe you know that what’s best for this person is to leave. You’re reading the same writing on the wall they’re reading. Your company may not have a role that’s right for their next move. That’s a great conversation to have.

Even if it looks like the best move for your teammate is outside the company you can still help them. And they will run through a wall for you in the meantime. Help you find a great replacement. Tell everyone they ever talk to what a great boss you are and how people should jump at the chance to work for you. Talent pipeline? Full, thank you.

Performance issues are just one slice of the pie.

Remember, turnover intention expresses itself in 3 ways:

  1. Performance Issues
  2. Relationship Struggles
  3. Lack of Belonging

Stay tuned for our next article where we’ll discuss 4 relationship struggles that signal an employee might be considering a move.

What’s been your experience with these 5 performance issues? How often do you notice them and do nothing? Do you think your lack of engagement with one of these problems has ever led the loss of an employee?