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5 Sure Signs Your Employee Has Checked Out

5 Sure Signs Your Employee Has Checked Out
Ever been in a situation where you felt completely blindsided by an employee resigning?

Perhaps you've been frustrated because they had ample opportunity to talk to you about whatever was going on and they didn't.

Maybe despite not seeing it coming you're quietly relieved because, let's face it, they haven't been a stellar team member for the last little while.

There is even a chance that you are not so quietly relieved because this employee has been keeping you up at night, you've been avoiding having one of those conversations with them and their resignation has just got you out of it.

Whatever the case we have all been there, where a resignation landed on our desk that we didn't see coming. But could we have? Could we have seen the signs, and known that this was inevitable? Or could we have seen the signs and put in place strategies to reverse what was going on so we could retain this once high performing and well liked member of our team.

The truth is, in almost every circumstance, there were signs, red flags if you like, that would have been there to let you know this employee had checked out, that they were no longer as committed as they once were to their role, their team mates and to your business.

The red flags aren't always obvious, they can be really subtle, but they were there. Here are just some of the signs to look out for in an employee who has 'checked out':
  • Absenteeism: This is potentially, in my opinion, the number one tell tail sign that you have an employee who has checked out, and potentially is actively on their way out. If you have one individual employee, or entire teams, who are consistently using all of their sick leave, and as soon as there is another day accrued they are again off, this is a sure fire sign of disengagement. If you have absenteeism issues in your business you undoubtedly also have engagement issues. It's an easy one to spot and can very quickly escalate to frustration and a desire to manage performance from the leaders and managers perspective, but underlying the apparent 'performance' failing is almost certainly a highly disengaged employee. This can often be led by one employee and then 'spread' like a disease to an entire team, it can easily become a cultural norm if it goes unnoticed.
  • A change in their routine: look for subtle changes that might occur over time, perhaps gradually. Once your employee would always arrive at work 10 -15 minutes before they were due to start, they would settle themselves in, make a coffee and be working away before their scheduled start time. Either suddenly, or gradually over time that changes. They start to arrive at work closer and closer to their start time, they barely make it to their desk by the time they are due to start work and perhaps are even a few minutes late regularly. These subtle changes to an employees routine often indicates that they are less enthusiastic and ultimately less interested and committed to their role. Have you ever had that feeling yourself? If you have you'll probably recognise that this was also the time you started looking for another role
  • Withdrawal from usual workplace connections: What you are looking for here is an employee who was once quite social and enjoyed the team interactions start to withdraw. They start having lunch on their own, instead of with their colleagues, they will make excuses as to why they need to take a break at a different time. They may decline outside of work social events such as Friday drinks or team dinners. They less interactive in the workplace, and don't get involved in the chatter and banter that they once did;
  • Less focused and more distracted: If you notice your employees spending more and more time looking at their phones, scrolling social media and taking personal calls, it may not mean that they are being intentionally lazy, but it is a sign that they have checked out of their role. This is especially the case if this is a change from the norm for this person.
  • A change in demeanour: Perhaps subtle, perhaps obvious but it can seem like an employee who has checked out has also had a personality shift. They may become more snappy, show less interest, seem vague and distant and generally not themselves. They might stop asking questions, no longer show an active interest, stop making suggestions, coming up with new ideas or support a colleague who has a brilliant idea during a team meeting. This is a sign they are physically showing up but mentally they have well and truly checked out.
These are by no means an exhaustive list of the signs an employee has checked out, but they are some of the most common signs I have seen in my 20+ years working with small to medium sized businesses on all aspects of their people management.

Once you spot these signs you really have only a few choices.

You can ignore it and wait for the inevitable resignation, no matter how long it takes, but I wouldn't recommend it. Employees who have checked out can very quickly become toxic and toxic employees are extraordinarily dangerous to have around because of the impact they can have on the rest of your team, your culture and your business reputation and customers.

You can confront the issue and bring it to a head, potentially speeding up the inevitable.

Or, because you have invested heavily in developing this employee, you can choose to take action to reverse the situation, turn the employee around and get them back in the game and engaged with your team.

To help you with that, if this is the choice you have made, we have a free Employee Engagement Guide for you with some suggested engagement strategies you might be able to use to turn this all around and get your employee checked back in.

Get Your Employee Engagement Guide Here - www.peoplepoweredbusiness.com.au/checkedout
Author: Kristy-Lee Billett
About: Kristy-Lee has worked in the field of HR and recruitment since 1999. She holds undergraduate qualifications in Psychology, a Masters in Human Resource Management, is an Professional Member of the Australian Human Resources Institute.
Connect via: LinkedIn

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