6 Ways To Tell Your Star Manager Is About To Leave
Your high-performing manager drops the bombshell that they’ve found another role and are moving on next month. And yet you had no idea whatsoever that they were unsatisfied in the role and looking elsewhere.
What were the signs, and how did you miss them?
Often, our best employees keep their intentions fairly well-hidden, as the mature professionalism that marked them out as being such great managers also extends into their subtlety in hunting for new jobs. So, if your star manager is the subtle and professional type, how will you know they want to leave? Luckily, there are a few signs that are dead giveaways.
1. A sudden spike in LinkedIn activity.
We all get the urge now and then to update our LinkedIn profile out of professionalism, so don’t read too much into basic updates or people making a batch of new connections. However, it’s the type of LinkedIn connections that they’re making that tends to indicate they are looking for a new job. For example, a flood of new connections could be a business development spurt; maybe.
More significant, however, is if your employee is making connections with several people in the same company, so keep a particular eye out for hiring managers and supervisors, and run a quick search to see what jobs that company has listed to see if they’re seeking a manager.
2. Uncharacteristic number of days off or mornings/afternoons off.
This is the classic hallmark of someone attending interviews. If your star manager isn’t normally the type to take any time off and then has a few short periods off for appointments and the like, then this can be an indicator they’re looking elsewhere. Look for random school sports days or ‘problems ‘at school with Jimmy or Jane.
3. Surreptitious phone calls in the hallway etc.
Most people find it very difficult to hide secretive behaviour, so once you know what you’re looking for it becomes very apparent! Whether it’s taking lots of personal calls then hurrying away from their desk, looking over their shoulder while emailing, or sending a lot of emails from personal rather than work accounts, there are many hints that someone is job-hunting.
4. A change in body language.
Honest people often struggle with guilt in the period when they’re searching for new roles or have received an offer but haven’t informed their current employer. This often shows in body language, whether it’s avoidance, forced smiles, or when they don’t like meeting your eyes.
5. A decline in performance.
It’s common for people to take the foot off the accelerator slightly when they’re about to move to another job. This is why it’s so important to read the signs beforehand, as a manager who loses enthusiasm and perhaps stops fussing over budgets or ensuring schedules are kept can cause you a lot of headaches long after they’re gone.
6. A change in behaviour.
You might notice that the manager stops planning long-term, or stops getting excited in meetings and putting forward ideas. This is classic dis-engaged behaviour and is always a sign that something isn’t right.
Once you know, what can you do to keep them?
Firstly, you need to find out what their key reasons for leaving are with an honest discussion. If it’s salary, benefits or promotion opportunities that is prompting the move, then you have a clear template to tempt them to stay.
You might discover that their dissatisfaction stems from the feeling that they don’t have the correct tools for success, whether that’s the right project management software or the proper support from the management team. All of these things are within your power to change if you really want to keep them; they can also be warning signs of a deeper problem within your organisation.
However, you need to prepare yourself for the possibility that you won’t be able to change their minds about leaving. You also need to prepare yourself for the common outcome that they agree to stay after a discussion, but then leave before long anyway, because their hearts weren’t truly with your organisation and its objectives anymore. You have to ask yourself whether you actually want an employee to stay when they’re no longer truly engaged?
So does this mean that there’s no point trying to predict when someone leaves?
The best outcome is that you manage to happily re-engage the employee and they stay in the role long-term. Yet even if the employee is determined to leave, forewarned is forearmed, and you can save yourself the shock of hearing bad news and start putting out feelers for their replacement ahead of time. You can also keep on top of whether they’re letting things slide before things get to crisis point.
Finally, having an idea that your best manager is about to leave also gives you an opportunity to assess the person’s decision a bit more calmly, and perhaps learn little more about possible problems in your business that you may need to address if you don’t want to lose any more star performers in the future.