- REUTERS/Joshua Lott
It can be difficult to concentrate when your boss seems to have lost interest in their job, the company, and maybe even you.
“If you feel as if your manager has ‘checked out,’ it’s a natural reaction to want to know why,” says Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert, leadership coach, and author of “Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant.” “Now it’s time to put the puzzle together to evaluate whether they may have one foot out the door.”
She says that if you suspect your boss is about to quit and you remain vigilant, the signs will become increasingly apparent:
The behaviors are far different if your manager is not performing to par and is trying to preempt termination, versus wanting to leave for greener pastures. But the common denominator, regardless of the reason for the impending departure, is a change in routine.
It’s important to pay attention because your boss’ job status can be linked to your own job security and affect your career – for better or worse.
Here are 19 signs your boss is about to jump ship:
There are changes in patterns and behavior
This is a noticeable theme among many of the signs that your boss is about to bolt, Taylor says:
Nothing is consistent with past behavior. Your boss used to be friendly, now they’re in virtual lock-down. Your boss used to be Mr. Introvert, and now acts like he’s just won the state lottery. They may become suddenly apathetic or very intense. Much depends on whether they must scramble for a new job – or are relieved they finally found a way out.
There’s been a reorganization
If your company has reorganized or downsized, then your boss may quit because they see the writing on the wall, Taylor says: “They may leave before a layoff, or the event may exacerbate the fact that their job was already at risk.”
You notice a shift in intensity
If your boss feels comfortable about an impending new job, he or she is more likely to be lax about upcoming deadlines, she says.
They take a lot of vacation time or PTO
If your boss who never took a lunch is suddenly taking a lot of personal time off, it might mean they’re planning to quit. They need this uninterrupted time for their job search where their every move isn’t scrutinized. They may also be taking all the PTO or vacation time they’re owed before they announce their resignation.
They were just passed up for a big – and much-deserved – promotion
Is your boss up for a promotion that was handed to someone else? Is everyone talking about how your manager is the one who really deserved it? If so, they probably feel slighted and frustrated by the whole thing, and may take their talents elsewhere.
They are suddenly evasive
It seems that your once communicative boss is short on words, eye contact, and meeting time.
“They won’t spend more time than necessary with you because it could jeopardize their career if they confide in you,” Taylor says.
- Flickr/Alex Poldavo
They complain a lot
If your boss suddenly seems to have a lot of complaints about the CEO, the culture, or anything else going on at your company, then they might be ready to leave.
“They might tell you about their mistreatment or delve into some of the politics they’re facing, making you wonder if you really even want their job,” Taylor says.
They ask you a lot of ‘what if’ questions
Your boss asking you a litany of hypothetical questions is a sign that they’re on their way out.
“They may actually be fishing to see whether they’d be able to recruit you to their next job,” she says. “They may ask about your future plans; whether you have an interest in a change of duties; relocation; etc.”
They’ve lost power
Another big sign: Your boss seems less powerful than before.
“They don’t seem to have as many answers, and it’s harder for you to push projects forward as a team,” says Taylor.
When someone loses power, they often lose interest, which can drive them to move on.
They are less present
If your boss’ disappearances rival Houdini’s, then it’s plausible that he or she may be checking out.
Bosses who are on the verge of quitting are less accountable to everyone. You don’t know when they’re coming or going; they seem to sneak in and out (mostly out, especially when you need them); their lunches are at odd times; and you feel like you’re herding cats to meet them, while they’re out interviewing.
There’s a change in their appearance
Another dead giveaway is “sudden suit syndrome,” she says.
If your boss usually shows up to work in jeans and a polo, and he’s now wearing a suit once a week, then there’s a good chance that he’s going on job interviews.
Another sign: The boss who usually gets dressed up suddenly starts dressing down. If it looks like they’ve “given up” and stopped caring about their looks, then it could be because they’ve given up on and stopped caring about the job.
They look ‘guilty’
A boss who is ready to leave for good will have the “hands in the cookie jar” look when you catch them unexpectedly, she says: “They may have just made or taken a call, text, email, or LinkedIn message relating to another job.”
- Julian Burgess/flickr
They make changes to their desk appearance
Your boss’ desk used to be buried under files and clutter. These days, there’s next to nothing on it.
“This could mean they’ve already checked out,” says Taylor. “Conversely, your OCD boss has now left everything conceivable on their desk because they no longer care. Either way, change is in the air – that is, an office without your boss.”
Another sign is a sudden disappearance of personal items from their desk.
Two weeks ago, there were a dozen family pictures and tiny cactus plants scattered all over your boss’s desk space – but everything has gradually disappeared, and maybe your boss is next. Departing managers don’t want you to see a sudden house cleaning, so this is more of a gradual undertaking.
They become very secretive
Has your boss been clicking out of a computer screen every time you walk by? Do they suddenly shut their office door every time their phone rings? If so, then they could be trying to hide their job search from you.
They stop mentoring you or engaging with others
Earlier, your boss took an interest in mentoring you, being on the social committee, or engaging in activities outside of the office, she says.
“Now, they’ve announced that due to other ‘conflicts,’ they must stop. This is probably because your boss needs to slowly unravel ties,” she says.
- AIGA RALEIGH/flickr
They’ve been meeting with the higher-ups more frequently
If your boss has been meeting with their manager or other higher-ups more often lately, then it could be a sign that they’re quitting. It could also mean that they’re about to be promoted or transferred. But if you notice this sign in addition to others, then there’s a good chance that they’re talking to those people about their upcoming departure.
They give you more work
Managers may gradually pile on more work so that there will be less of a disruption when they leave, she says: “In effect, they’re grooming you for more advanced opportunity so this can be a positive sign. You’re being told indirectly that your job looks secure at the very least.”
They seem to be getting their affairs in order
If you notice that your boss seems to be in a hurry to get their expense reports in, introduce you to important business contacts, or catch you up on projects they’re working on, then it may be because they’re about to leave.
- Jim Epler/flickr
You’ve got a gut feeling
If you feel that your boss has one foot out the door, then they probably do.
“Gut instincts aren’t whims,” Taylor says. “They’re your subconscious on steroids. It’s putting hundreds of facts together, with the ultimate result being an emotion or physical feeling.”
To find out what to do when you realize that your boss may be quitting, click here.