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.
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.
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.
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.
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.