Huntsman School Study Says Signs Of Quitting Are Surprising

Feb 26, 2014

Long lunch breaks and vacations don't always point to an employee readying themselves to quit. A new study by the Huntsman School of Business at USU finds 18 predictors someone is ready to leave.

Though we may think we know how to predict that a coworker or employee is thinking of quitting their job, a new study from Utah State University shows actions assumed to be telltale signs of quitting, such as taking long lunches or vacation time, may not be all that predictive after all.

Tim Gardner, an associate professor of management in the Huntsman School of Business used manager and employee feedback to create a list of things they thought to be predictors of quitting. After multiple studies and experimental field research, Gardner narrowed down the list from over 900 to 18.
“All of these 18 cues that we identified really have a common thread of a form of disengagement, in that the person is not engaged with the business, with their boss, with their workforce and their overall job,” Gardner said.

Gardner’s research shows that employees thinking of quitting tend to be less interested in the long-term goals of their company, and changes in behavior can appear one or two months before someone quits.

Gardner said he hopes the research will help managers use their time wisely in identifying people who are at the greatest risk of leaving, and allow them to intervene and retain good workers; though he does worry that there could be a dark side to this information.

“It gives managers good information for making decisions and using their time to retain employees, but I don’t think that it’s a strong enough predictor that they should take actions like terminate people or take negative actions against people just because of what these cues might reveal."

Gardner said the statistical model he developed is 80 percent accurate in predicting an employee will quit in in cases where the person is showing at least six of the 18 disengagement traits.