When an employee leaves suddenly or unexpectedly, it may be an indication that trouble is on the horizon. It isn’t wise to simply write off the employee as a bad egg.
There may be a legitimate reason for their bad attitude. You may soon be slammed with a discrimination or harassment lawsuit, or you could become the victim of intellectual property theft. By staying alert and asking the right questions, you can avoid a disaster.
A sudden exit usually means the employee is extremely dissatisfied. But there can be more.
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 that left suddenly. By pursuing why she was leaving, 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. It requires diligence and being aware of the laws and your liability,” he says. In that case, once he spoke with the employee, he handed the case off to legal.
Potential for Lawsuits
Watch out for potential lawsuits after an exit, says Pogar, who has managed hundreds of employees in his career and has spent extensive time in upper management. “Be suspicious of a lawsuit coming on the back end,” says Pogar. For example, he had an African-American employee who was over 40 years old leave. Six weeks later, the company received notice of a lawsuit.”Is there any potential exposure? Are they in a protected class?” Pogar says you should ask yourself. In the case of the employee who was over 40, he had documentation that she had received a great deal of coaching. “Luckily we had the documentation,” he says. “You’re going to have some issues if you don’t have the documentation to refute their claims.”
Employee Theft or Industrial Espionage
When an employee suddenly leaves, move quickly to ensure that nothing has been stolen. If an exiting employee has access to intellectual property, there’s the potential of industrial espionage. For that reason, watch out for sudden changes in behavior as a clue. For example, do you notice that an employee is suddenly coming in before everyone else or staying after hours? Are they ordering CDs by the case? “In today’s world of technology, when large amounts of data are being moved, you have to be diligent,” Pogar says. If an employee suddenly leaves, one of your first questions should be where are they going, says Pogar.”I’m always leery that there’s an ulterior motive,” says Pogar.
A sudden exit can be indicative of drug use. Pogar had one employee leave suddenly the day before a drug screening.