how to know when your employee is about to quit.

Frustration (was: threesixtyfive | day 244)

Image by Sybren A. Stüvel via Flickr

Working at and managing a department in a major retail store has it’s lessons.  One of those lessons is keeping an eye out for the folks who might be on the verge of quitting.  While turnover is high in occupations like ‘retail sales’ it doesn’t necessarily have to be.  In fact, I’m convinced that if you watch out for these ‘conversational’ red flags you might head off a potential break down on the sales floor or in the office.

Flag #1 – “No one cares but me”  When you hear someone say this, what they mean is “I feel alone.”  I know this may sound too Freudian but it’s true.  Most of the time a salesperson doesn’t care entirely too much about one specific product or aspect of the job.  What they thrive on is the sense of community that comes from others caring at the same time.  This flag usually shows up in random and unsolicited conversation.

Respond by asking why they feel that way and then just listen.  While this will always be an appropriate response, in this case, most people just want to be heard.  By giving them space to vent, they may realize that the world doesn’t revolve around them or what they are doing.  It’s always good to be reminded that we’re on a team, each person needing the other.

Flag #2 – “I won’t be here forever” This is often said by that high school student bagging groceries.  It’s justified and worthy of saying at this stage.  However, the 26-year-old with a degree should hopefully be saying, “I could see myself here a long time.”  This certainly isn’t the case always.  I’m not advocating that someone stick it out when a truly horrible work environment exists.  What I am saying is that one bad day won’t justify quitting.

Whenever you hear this on the sales floor or by the water cooler, ask the person, “Where do you see yourself in the next few years?”  It’s amazing how much intrinsic insight we have when we verbalize our thoughts.  Stepping stones to another job are not necessarily wrong.  Lagging performance due to frustration is.  Help the person find a niche in the company or help them find another company.

Flag #3 – “I hate my boss” No brainer, right?  Unfortunately, people stick it out in these situations despite having psychotic dreams of violence toward their superiors.  While not every relationship with a manager or leader is going to be peachy keen, it should be professional.  The number one reason most people leave their job positively is for higher pay somewhere else.  The number one reason most people leave their job negatively is because they couldn’t get along with their boss.

This is probably the trickiest red flag to navigate.  While “hating my boss” might not be the exact words, some derivation of it betrays a big problem.  A potential rescue does exist:  If the employee/volunteer is a tremendously talented asset to your organization AND they haven’t shared this with others, try negotiating new terms for work and communication.  Find out where the break down is.

Unfortunately though, if this venom is being spewed by the employee lockers and you’re getting it third hand, it’s time to cut the cord and move on no matter how talented the person is.

Flag #4 – “I don’t care”  This flag is at the opposite end of Flag #1.  When someone is truly invested in a company, an idea or a vision they usually have some form of opinion on almost everything.  Whether that’s what color the walls will be, what product will go up for sale next or who wins the “employee of the month” plaque.  Sure, it’s not normal to have an opinion on literally everything…you just don’t have time for it.  However, when not caring about anything becomes a motif, it’s time for change.

While you can never make someone care about something, you can always show care for someone.  A simple thank you card, some time off or a  new project are all ways to show that you care about someone.  Hopefully, that caring will be contagious.

These flags are just some things to listen out for but the real key is to always have your ear to the ground.  To be a good leader, you have to be a good listener.  The best is yet to come for most people, we just have to know how to look for it.  If you are thinking about quitting, quit well.  It’s not that a good leader doesn’t quit, it’s just that they know how and when to.


how to quit well.

Motivational theory often revolves around incentives, either intrinsic, extrinsic or some of both. In other words, what reward or punishment will follow specific behaviors? I don’t think that quitting and giving up are necessarily the same thing. Some would surely argue semantics here but I see a key difference between the two. Quitting is a normal part of life. It’s taking stock of our circumstances and responding appropriately. Giving up speaks more to my interpretation or outlook on life in general. Giving up moves beyond circumstances and declares one’s belief about oneself. Quitting says “this is where I’m at right now” while giving up “says this is where I’m heading.” I don’t know if this is making any sense to you but I think there are times in life where one has to be allowed to quit gracefully, exit with dignity and emerge on the other side with a more positive, healthy perspective on life.

So quitting lets check me check that whole motivation thing. Am I leading/serving/helping/loving/living with an explicit or implicit motivation? What is that motivation and why is it there? Why am I even here in the first place? Good grief, to try and dig all that up in one’s life would take, well…a lifetime. But for my purposes here I want to first say that quitting can be normal and handled in a way that let’s you press the reset button on those motivations. In fact, I want to give you permission to quit. Quitting is human but quitting well is divine. I know the adage, “Winner’s never quit and quitters never win.” Well, I typically take issue with blanket statements that employ the word “never”. That makes me think of another adage, [insert irony] “never say never”. As a matter of fact, winners not only quit, they quit well.

Do you want to know what the real crux of the matter is? One word: timing. With quitting, timing is everything. You see, knowing why to quit is only half the equation. Knowing WHEN to quit…now that’s the meat of it. That’s where the aforementioned saying gets off track. Winners never quit cause they don’t know when. Now I’m really going to blow your mind with a paradox. The absolute worst time to quit, to pack it up and go home, is when the going get’s tough. Maybe that’s where quitting crosses over into giving up. If there could ever be a disastrous moment to tell yourself that it’s no use going on, that no one cares, or to believe that your gifts are invalid, it would be when your at your lowest. It is there in that moment, in the dark night of your soul and when all hope seems lost that you come face to face with who you really truly are. Truthfully, if you’re like me and probably most people, you’re not going to like what you see.

Now contrary to what you might be thinking about this blogger, I’m not even remotely close to a season of quitting or giving up. I am, however, in a season of transitional leadership and I have watched some friends quit in a way that caused concern. Please hear my heart: You can quit a job or even a ministry as long as you don’t give up on the hope of the Kingdom. So in the spirit of past posts here are some keys to quitting well:

  • Be patient. Isaiah 40:31 But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. Don’t make any rash decisions or rush to any conclusions. Discern what God might be saying through your circumstances and your community of faith.
  • Be wise. James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. What about just plain asking God for His help and direction? Wisdom will paint some lines on the road of life. Wisdom will be your green light, yellow light and red light. Wisdom will tell you when to go, when to slow down and when to stop.
  • Be merciful. James 2:13 …because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. “Mercy-full” is perhaps the hardest ‘state of being’ in all of this, especially, when you feel like quitting because of others. In scripture, we see a direct correlation between the Lord’s help and His mercy. Mercy toward others might divulge the keenest insight you’ve ever had into making a decision. In fact, showing mercy on others could potentially be the key to breaking through this quitting season in all.

Bathsheba’s child by David was struck with illness and died as a direct result of their sin (2 Samuel 11). When did David quit mourning his child and pitying himself? Upon the death of his child, David confessed death’s imminence for all, washed himself and went on with life without giving up on his faith. In fact, the very first thing David writes in the 51st Psalm is “Have mercy on me, O God…”. It’s possible your life holds something as painful as personal loss or the decision of staying on in ministry…whatever it is, you will find fresh perspective in patience, wisdom and mercy. Perhaps by quitting well, with grace and hope, you will not only find perspective, you will find yourself. Never give up but when the time comes to quit something, someone or somewhere, quit well.