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Addressing Employee Absconding and The Top 10 Reasons

Addressing Employee Absconding and The Top 10 Reasons

When an employee decides to leave your organization, there is a standard procedure they are expected to follow. Many companies require that workers give two weeks' notice to create a transition plan and find a replacement.

Sometimes, though, an employee will simply quit without giving any prior notice or following the typical process. That can leave your team scrambling, dealing with a potentially significant workflow disruption, increasing the workload on remaining team members, a morale drop, and other negative consequences.

There are many different reasons that can cause an employee to stop showing up to work without communicating their whereabouts or whether they intend to return. Sometimes, these might be personal issues that don't reflect anything negative about your organization. If a pattern emerges, you'll want to consider why so many workers are leaving without going through the proper process.

Employee absconding can be quite costly to a company, reducing the ability to smoothly transition when there is turnover and causing a long list of other problems. Let's look at the most common reasons workers leave their posts without notice and how to address the issue.

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What Is Employee Absconding?

Employee absconding is a term used to describe when a worker does not give proper notice before leaving their job. Essentially, any time an employee departs from their role abruptly, without explanation, and without warning, it is known as employee absconding.

An Employee Leaving Their Job

As you might imagine, this can cause serious disruption in any organization, particularly if it emerges as a pattern within the workforce. When employees leave their jobs without following the proper procedures, it can leave your company short-staffed and significantly reduce productivity.

The Top Ten Reasons Employees Abscond

There are many different factors that can cause an employee to stop showing up without any warning. In many cases, a combination of negative elements might push a worker to abscond rather than there being one dominant reason.

An Employee Quitting Their Job

That being said, there are some common reasons employees will leave their posts without going through the structured resignation process.

1. Burnout

An employee who is consistently overworked and chronically stressed out might choose to leave their job abruptly without any warning.

An Employee Suffering From Burnout

In this scenario, the realization that they no longer want to work in their position or with your company might come all at once. Rather than putting in notice and jumping through all the hoops, they could be tempted to stop showing up to relieve some of their stress.

2. Job Dissatisfaction

One of the most apparent reasons employees abscond is that they are unhappy with their job, management, or work environment.

An Employee Dissatisfied With Their Job

While many employees will still go through the standard procedure to leave their jobs due to dissatisfaction, it certainly happens that workers will not communicate the fact that they no longer intend to work for the organization.

3. Lack of Recognition or Advancement

Even the best, most internally motivated employees can start to lose enthusiasm about their jobs when they feel their hard work goes unnoticed. If a worker is putting in their all and feels they aren't receiving the appropriate recognition, they might decide their employer doesn't deserve the courtesy of two weeks' notice.

An Employee Not Being Recognized

Additionally, employees who feel they deserve a promotion or other forms of advancement might feel fed up when the organization doesn't help them progress in their careers. That could lead to them finding work elsewhere and simply transitioning jobs without informing their former employer.

4. Workplace Conflicts

Conflict in the workplace is inevitable, but conflicts that are allowed to fester and aren't met with appropriate resolution processes can lead to employees simply quitting without any notice or communication.

A Workplace Conflict

The environment your employees work in is essential, and if their day-to-day experience involves uncomfortable or hostile situations with co-workers or management, they might choose to end their relationship with the company without communicating this to HR or management.

If your workplace is struggling with conflicts that are not effectively and productively resolved, check out our What's My Communication Style and Conflict Strategies Inventory tools.


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5. Better Opportunities

Another possible reason for employees absconding is that they could have found a better, more lucrative opportunity elsewhere.

An Employee Finding a New Opportunity

That being said, individuals transitioning between organizations are often motivated to maintain positive relationships with their previous employers. This can ensure they have access to references and maintain their professional network even after moving on to a new opportunity.

6. Personal Issues

Sometimes, an employee absconding doesn't necessarily have that much to do with your company, its culture, or its staff. Sometimes, the employee is dealing with personal issues that cause them to stop showing up without communicating about their situation.

Personal issues, of course, is an umbrella term that covers a lot of ground. This could imply that the individual is struggling with legal issues, a family emergency, or a personal crisis. They could be dealing with an overwhelming relationship issue, drug problems, or a health condition. In this circumstance, employees may not feel comfortable sharing what is happening in their lives and instead choose to stop performing their duties rather than giving notice.

An Employee Facing Personal Issues

In this scenario, the employee leaving abruptly without notice does not necessarily reflect any issues within the organization.

Though it can be surprising for a worker to not show up one day without informing management or HR, it is possible that they did so due to their personal circumstances and not because of anything going wrong with their job.

7. Financial Problems

Though this could qualify as a personal issue, financial problems are common enough as a reason for employee absconding that it deserves to be discussed on its own.

An Employee Facing Financial Problems

If someone has found themselves in a pickle financially, they might look for work elsewhere and move on to a job with another company without informing their previous employer. That might particularly be the case if they felt they weren't fairly compensated working with the original organization.

8. Work-Life Balance

If an employee is pressured to take on excessive overtime hours, work a highly inflexible schedule that interrupts their personal life, or otherwise struggles to maintain a healthy work-life balance, they might be more likely to stop showing up to work.

Employee Struggling to Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance

This phenomenon is related to burnout, as the individual might feel that going through another two weeks to finish out the working relationship in a more professional manner is ultimately too harmful to their health and well-being.

9. Negative Workplace Culture

The average individual spends one-third of their life at work. When you think about just how dominant the experience is in the workplace for any given employee, the importance of a positive workplace culture becomes much more apparent.

A Negative Workplace Culture

If your workplace culture is negative or even toxic, employees might not feel it is worth their time or effort to go through the proper resignation procedures. Work environments where there is unhealthy competition, lots of office gossip and politics, poor leadership, no focus on employee satisfaction, or other indications of unideal workplace culture are much more likely to lose employees in this manner.

10. Unsafe Work Environment

A pattern of employee absconding could also potentially result from an unsafe work environment. If workers feel that it is not healthy or safe to continue reporting to work, they might choose to stop coming in and performing their duties.

An Unsafe Work Environment

An unsafe work environment could refer to conditions where the physical safety of workers is put at risk, such as a workplace ridden with OSHA violations, other employees who are physically or mentally abusive, or a culture where sexual harassment runs rampant.

Potential Signs of Employees Who Might Abscond

While it isn't always possible to know when an employee is planning to abscond, there are certainly some signs you can watch out for.

An Employee Planning to Abscond

For example, a worker who had once been highly engaged but has quickly started isolating themselves and phoning it in might be on their way out. Another sign is if a worker is frequently missing work without calling in to explain why they won't be able to make it in or if they are constantly making excuses for why they can't work their shift.

Negative Effects of Employee Absconding

When a pattern emerges of employees quitting without giving proper notice, it can wreak havoc on an organization.

Morale Reduction in the Workplace

Here are some of the consequences of frequent employee absconding:

  • Workflow disruption: Delays can occur when an employee absconds unexpectedly, disrupting workflows and daily operations. This also means that other team members can get stuck with additional work or tasks assigned to the absconder that are left unfinished.
  • Morale reduction: Having an employee leave without notice can put a damper on the morale of the rest of the team. It can lead to a lack of motivation and even lead them to question whether they want to stick with the organization or find another opportunity elsewhere.
  • Replacement cost: It's time-consuming and expensive to replace an employee. That is particularly true if you are scrambling to find someone to fill the role in a pinch. Beyond that, temporary workers might be required, or existing employees might need overtime to cover the gap in personnel.

Preventing Employee Absconding

In some cases, there isn't anything you can do about an employee absconding. For example, if there is an isolated incident where a worker is dealing with a health crisis or personal problem that has led them to stop showing up, this doesn't necessarily mean that organizational changes need to be made.

On the other hand, a pattern of employee absconding could point to numerous potential problems, including a negative workplace culture, poor management, or an unsafe work environment, to name a few.

A Leader Preventing Employee Absconding

Here are some of the things you can do to try and prevent employees from leaving without giving proper notice:

  • Ensure that compensation and benefits are competitive for the role.
  • Invest in creating a positive work environment and a healthy, supporting workplace culture.
  • Run background checks and check references before hiring employees.
  • Ensure you are communicating with employees about changes in the workplace and providing them with a strong sense of job security.
  • Proactively work to reward and recognize the hard work of employees.
  • Have an organized and well-designed onboarding process that helps employees learn the policies and procedures of the company.

Which Industries Tend to Experience the Highest Rates of Employee Absconding?

Businesses in any industry can experience employee absconding. Many factors can influence how prevalent this phenomenon is, including the work environment, the nature of the work, and the conditions in the local labor market.

However, there are some industries where absconding tends to be more common.

Call Center Employees

These include:

  • Retail and hospitality: Industries that typically experience a high turnover rate and rely on seasonal or part-time workers can tend to deal with higher rates of employee absconding.
  • Construction and manual labor: Industries where employees are engaged in intense manual labor can potentially experience higher rates of employee absconding.
  • Call centers: Workers consistently dealing with challenging customer interactions and otherwise high-stress environments might be more likely to stop coming to work without notice.
  • Small businesses: Generally, small businesses tend to have fewer resources to compensate employees and offer them benefits packages. That can mean that smaller businesses can be more likely to lose employees through absconding as they can be tempted to find work at larger organizations that provide more substantial compensation and benefits.

Fostering Better Relationships Between Employees and Management to Reduce Absconding

When managers and leaders are fully invested in creating a supportive workplace environment, you'll find that workers are much less likely to leave without following the proper procedures. People are naturally predisposed to want to remain on good terms with people they respect and admire that they feel, in turn, respect them. However, when management and leadership treat employees as interchangeable or, even worse, exhibit a behavioral pattern of treating employees poorly, employee absconding will be a much more frequent occurrence.

A Healthy Relationship Between Employees and Management

Is it time for your organization to work on creating better relationships between management and employees? Are you interested in reducing turnover and creating a more positive workplace environment? Make sure you take a look at our Best Boss Inventory, an instrument that helps participants understand the traits of the "best bosses" and helps give valuable insight into how to lead, motivate, and inspire employees.

Do you have any questions about employee absconding or why it occurs? If so, be sure to leave us a comment down below, and we'll get back to you within a day or two. We make it a point to reply to every comment we receive, and we'd be more than happy to assist you however we can.

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About our author

Bradford R. Glaser

Brad is President and CEO of HRDQ, a publisher of soft-skills learning solutions, and HRDQ-U, an online community for learning professionals hosting webinars, workshops, and podcasts. His 35+ years of experience in adult learning and development have fostered his passion for improving the performance of organizations, teams, and individuals.