When an employee quits: how to spot potential trouble

When an employee quits suddenly, it may be an indication that trouble is on the horizon.

As tempting as it may be, however, to simply write off the employee as a bad egg – and think “good riddance,” it’s possible that there’s a reason for their bad attitude.

And that reason might come back to give you serious trouble. You might soon be slammed with a discrimination or harassment lawsuit, or you could become the victim of intellectual property theft.

By staying alert to employee behavior and asking the right questions, you can avoid a potential disaster.

Here are some real life situations – and how they were resolved – that are worth noting.

Sexual Harassment

Joel Pogar, the director of channel sales at a major technology company and an expert in information security, recalls a time when one of his employees quit suddenly.

Concerned, he decided to investigate further. He learned that she felt she was the victim of sexual harassment.
“She was a good employee,” he says, “but she had been sexually harassed.”
Pogar quickly handed the case off to legal counsel.

Potential for Lawsuits

It’s wise to watch out for potential lawsuits after a sudden exit.

“Be suspicious of a lawsuit coming on the back end,” says Pogar.

For example, he once had a mid-career professional – who was also the member of a protected minority group – leave without warning.

Six weeks later, the company received notice of a lawsuit. It was later dismissed because records contradicted the employee’s discrimination claims.

From the experience, Pogar learned to consider carefully whether or not a former employee’s experience presents problems.

“Is there any potential exposure? Are they in a protected class?” Pogar says managers should ask themselves of quick departures. “Luckily, [in this case,] we had the documentation [to protect us legally].”

Employee Theft or Industrial Espionage

When an employee suddenly leaves, management should move quickly to ensure that nothing has been stolen. No, we’re not talking about staplers. If an exiting employee has access to intellectual property, there’s the potential of industrial espionage.

Unfortunately, sometimes the damage is done before you discover theft has occurred.

Therefore, it’s smart to watch employee behavior continuously for clues that they are involved in espionage.

For example, is an employee suddenly coming in before everyone else or staying after hours? Are they ordering CDs or jump drives by the case?

“In today’s world of technology, when large amounts of data are being moved about, you have to be diligent,” Pogar says.

If an employee suddenly leaves, one of your first questions should be where are they going next. That may be a clue that espionage has occurred. “I’m always leery [with a quick exit] that there’s an ulterior motive,” says Pogar.

Drug Use

Sometimes the fear of being caught abusing drugs is sufficient to scare off an employee. Pogar says he had one employee leave suddenly the day before a drug screening.

The Takeaway

Consider an employee’s sudden departure a red flag that management needs to investigate the reason(s) why they left – and prepare to address any potential problems as soon as possible.

7 Most Frequent HR Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
Download your free e-book

0 responses to “When an employee quits: how to spot potential trouble

This site uses cookies to store information on your computer. Some are essential to make our site work; others help us improve the user experience. By using the site, you consent to the placement of these cookies. Read our privacy policy to learn more.