How to react if you find out that your employee is looking for another job

Zane Franke 30.11.2022

Relationships don’t last forever, including the ones at the workplace. Experienced leaders know that no employee is going to retain the same job for their whole career, especially younger workers with bigger ambitions. While hiring a job-hopper can be beneficial, one still needs to be prepared for being on the receiving end and seeing their employee leave for a better opportunity.

But what to do when you find out your employee is looking for another job? Is there anything you can do? Let’s dive in! 

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Reasons why your employee might be job-hunting

There can be many reasons, both professional and personal, why an employee might be looking for another job. For instance, they might be looking to advance their career. It is common for employees to look for career advancement opportunities when they realize they’ve reached a ceiling in terms of career growth in their current position and want more than the company they’re with can offer. Or, they might be taking a bigger leap and making a complete career switch. 

Another common reason for job-hunting is being generally dissatisfied with their work conditions. Not receiving adequate pay, not feeling like their input is valued, or not having a great work-life balance are all valid justifications for deciding it’s time to move on to another position. Poor working conditions also include work relationships — if the employee doesn’t get along with their management or coworkers, chances are the lack of connection is pushing them to look for other opportunities.

A major life change can also contribute to the decision to job-hunt for a better position. That can be moving to another area, changes in their personal relationships, family growth, or any other personal reason.

What to do if you find out your employee is looking for another job

Now that we’ve looked at some signs of why your employee might be in the market for a new job, let’s see how to deal with this situation in a prepared, reasonable way.

Prepare for their departure

First of all, be proactive about their departure. Look at the resources you have available and see if there are any contractors or freelancers out there that could potentially fill in the gaps until you find a new candidate. Pawning off those responsibilities to other employees would be a route you’d want to avoid because unexpected extra work might cause job dissatisfaction and perhaps even more employees questioning their position within the company.

Drafting a job posting is another way to get ready for a potential loss of an employee. If you end up not having to post it — great! But if the employee ends up taking another job, better have the posting ready to go as soon as possible to minimize the time looking for someone to fill that position.

Find out why they are looking to move on

It’s good to find out the “why” behind your employee’s departure. Things might look great from your perspective, but clearly, there is some level of dissatisfaction for the other party involved. Even if this work relationship is coming to an end, it is important to learn about their reason for leaving because it can serve as a basis for implementing some necessary changes to avoid others jumping ship as well. 

Look for ways to improve work conditions

Speaking of change, always continue to seek ways to improve the work environment to retain as many employees as possible. Allocate time for frequent check-ins and create an environment where employees feel comfortable coming forward with their issues, which will contribute to employees feeling motivated to stick around.

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Think of ways to retain the employee

Determine how valuable the employee is, and if you realize that their contributions appear irreplaceable, see if you can negotiate their stay. That is, if they are open to negotiations. Maybe they’ve already gotten an offer, and you can match the salary, or perhaps their responsibilities can be tweaked to reduce the workload if they’re overwhelmed or add additional ones to ensure opportunity for career growth. 

Essentially, you want to ask the question, “Is there anything I can do to make you stay?” in a professional and reasonable way. Be open to considering suggestions and change, but don’t commit to going above and beyond just to keep an employee in their role, either.

Be grateful

If it does turn out that it is better for the company and the employee to part ways, don’t take it personally. While it is definitely valuable to build meaningful work relationships, at the end of the day, work fundamentally is about people trading their time for compensation.

Be grateful for the time and effort they’ve put into their role and offer to be a reference if they have been someone you’ve enjoyed working with. 

What NOT to do if you find out your employee is looking for another job

Before we part, we do need to discuss what not to do in case you find out your employee is on the lookout for a better job opportunity.

Don’t bring it up if they haven’t yet

In case you come across the news from some other source, don’t let the employee know that you are aware of their job-hunting. It can create an uncomfortable dynamic and even jeopardize their career. Employees are entitled to privacy, and your actions should reflect that. While we did discuss preemptively evaluating available resources and drafting a job posting, neither of these should be followed through without official notice from the employee directly.

Besides, they might just be seeing what opportunities are out there without actually making a commitment to leave. Generally, you should assume that all employees are always job-hunting and looking for places where the grass is greener because it will keep you striving to create the best work environment.

Don’t focus on just what the company needs

People are the backbone of your company, and if the employee has decided to move on, trying to force them to stay is not a good look and shows that you are putting the company’s needs above the needs of the people working in it. 

It is your responsibility, as a leader, to secure a path for success for your employees and help them reach their personal career goals, even if that entails continuing it elsewhere. 

Final thoughts

It’s inevitable some of your employees will be moving up in their careers with a different company at some point. Remember to take proactive steps to improve the work environment and ensure your team feels valued in order to boost employee retention. If you do, however, find yourself in a situation of farewell, see if there’s anything you can do to keep your employee around, but if there’s nothing you can do — be thankful for the time and energy they’ve put into growing your company and be a support system if they need it.

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