Turnover Contagion - How to Stop the Resignation Ripple Effect

As US workers started to trickle out of workplaces during the pandemic, that trickle soon became a steady stream and then a roaring flood. A record 50.5 million Americans quit their jobs last year. While many had their own reasons for leaving, experts suggest that some were influenced by a phenomenon known as turnover contagion.

Anyone who’s ever been a teenager knows the power of peer pressure. Even as adults, we’re not immune, especially in the office, where we develop strong attachments to the people we work closely with every day. If one member of the team starts questioning why they’re still there, it won’t be long before others start asking themselves the same thing.

This is why resignations often seem to happen in tandem. When someone on a team leaves, their coworkers are 9.1% more likely to quit within the next 135 days than employees who aren’t on that team, according to a study from analytics firm Visier, which also highlighted that the risk increases the smaller your team. Teams of 6 to 10 members have a 14.6% higher probability that employees will leave due to another’s departure. 

To avoid a mass migration sparked by one unhappy worker, organizations should be alert to turnover contagion - knowing the signs and proactively preventing it by boosting employee engagement and satisfaction.

The Power of Peer Pressure 

Turnover contagion could also be labeled emotional contagion - when someone’s emotions and behaviors lead to similar emotions and behaviors in others. If someone at work starts feeling disgruntled, it can spread faster than a cold. 

But dissatisfaction isn’t the only emotion at play in turnover contagion. Jealousy can also sour motivation in the workplace. Seeing another colleague leave their job to follow their dream, travel the world, or spend more time with their family can leave others hungry for the same freedom.

And then there’s fear. If a highly-regarded and/or more senior member of staff abruptly resigns, that can prompt others to wonder ‘what do they know that I don’t?’ - thinking the leaving employee has some insider knowledge that has made them decide to call it quits. Fearing for their job security, employees might decide to jump ship before they’re pushed.

This is why it’s so important for managers to stay connected with their teams. Open, honest, and constructive conversations give team leaders a heads-up on how their employees are feeling, so they can spot destructive emotions before it’s too late.

How to Handle Turnover Contagion

  1. Model positive behavior - negative emotions might spread, but so does positivity. In one study, work groups with at least one positive employee demonstrated more cooperation, less conflict, and better performance. Managers can be that positive force by modeling the behavior they want to see from their teams. Be enthusiastic about projects, build trust among your team, lead with empathy and compassion - your employees will reward you with similarly positive outlooks.
  2. Address the situation quickly - if you notice changes in behavior, activity, or mood among your staff don’t just wait for the situation to resolve itself, act. The sooner you engage with a disaffected employee, the less chance there is that it will have a ripple effect on the rest of the team. Set up a meeting and encourage them to share their concerns in a supportive, non-confrontational environment. 
  3. Communicate - your team needs to know that you’re open to feedback and can be trusted to hear them out. When employees feel like they can’t talk to their manager - fearing conflict, being shut down, or ignored - their grievances fester and resentment grows. You want staff complaining to you, not their colleagues.

A Data-Driven Approach

You can’t help your team until you know exactly what’s going on with your team and that means gathering data around how they work.

Stop disgruntled employees from falling through the cracks with Prodoscore, an innovative employee monitoring software that unobtrusively tracks how staff are interacting with core business tools.

By focusing on three key indicators - an employee’s overall productivity score, their calendar time, and their email volume - Prodoscore can detect behavioral patterns that suggest an employee is thinking about quitting. These markers are 89% accurate at predicting employee attrition or retention.

According to research from the Prodoscore Research Council, the biggest behavioral shifts typically occur 2-3 weeks before an employee resigns. These red flags include changes in hours worked (starting work later and ending earlier) and decreased interaction with coworkers.

Using Prodoscore to spot these worrying trends allows managers to proactively address employee concerns and refine their approach to workplace engagement in a way that boosts talent retention. To schedule a demonstration or find out more, contact our team today.

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